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Infinite Earth Radio – weekly conversations with leaders building smarter, more sustainable, and equitable communities - Michael Hancox EPISODE 43
Moving Vulnerable Communities from Surviving to Thriving, Part 4
00:00:00 00:18:14

Moving Vulnerable Communities from Surviving to Thriving, Part 4

Stay engaged with the social and environmental justice dialogues started at the 2016 National Funding and Resources Training Summit to Revitalize Vulnerable Communities Learn How HERE



Worker Training and Workforce Development


[02:05] Introduction of Sharon Beard.

[02:22] Sharon describes the Worker Education and Training Program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

[03:38] Sharon tells why there was a need for the Minority Worker Training Program at NIEHS.

[06:56] Sharon identifies some of the most successful outcomes of the Minority Worker Training Program.

[09:04] Sharon conveys the purpose of the 2016 National Training & Resources Summit to Revitalize Vulnerable Communities.

[10:50] Sharon answers the question of why it was important for NIEHS to co-sponsor an event like the 2016 National Training & Resources Summit to Revitalize Vulnerable Communities.

[11:43] Sharon gives her response to the criticism that federal dollars could be better spent elsewhere than in job training and workforce development.

[14:37] Sharon explains if the target of the Environmental Career Worker Training Program is those who have been in the criminal justice system.

[16:37] Sharon gives information about the hourly wage of those who come through the program.

[18:26] Sharon tells if there are any people, of the thousands who have been helped, who stick out in her mind.

[20:02] Sharon communicates her hopes of what is accomplished at the National Training & Resources Summit to Revitalize Vulnerable Communities and what the ongoing impact will be.

[25:21] Sharon discusses one change that would lead to more effective, more dynamic, better-funded environmental worker training.

[27:38] Sharon states the action listeners can take to help build a more equitable workforce.

[29:12] Sharon gives information on how people can reach her program.

[30:25] Sharon shares what federally supported environmental workforce development and employment opportunities look like 30 years from now.


Sharon Beard is an Industrial Hygienist in the Worker Education and Training Program of the Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT) at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), National Institute of Health (NIH) in Research Triangle Park, NC. As an industrial hygienist, Sharon is responsible for coordinating, evaluating, and improving the nation-wide worker education and training program especially in the area of the Minority Worker Training Program (MWTP) initiative. She uses her background in industrial hygiene to provide expert review, guidance, and leadership in managing a multi-million portfolio of worker training grants in the area of hazardous waste, emergency response, and nuclear weapons/radiation reaching communities all over the US. She has also worked within in DERT assisting with efforts to facilitate and coordinate translational research through the Partnership for Environmental Public Health (PEPH) Program. The PEPH program is an umbrella program that brings together scientists, community members, educators, health care providers, public health officials, and policy makers in the shared goal of advancing the impact of environmental public health research at local, regional, and national levels.

Building on her environmental and occupational health experience acquired while working in the Environmental Restoration and Industrial Hygiene & Safety Departments at Westinghouse Savannah River Company in SC, she is currently a member of the NIEHS Science Advisory Committee, HHS Environmental Justice Working Group and the Brownfields Federal Partnership Interagency Working Group. She is also a member of the American Public Health Association and ACGIH. Beard holds a Master of Science in Environmental Science and Management from Tufts University, Medford, MA where she received the prestigious Environmental Science and Management Fellowship from the National Urban Fellows, Inc. She also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with minor in Business from Western Carolina University, NC.

The major objectives of the NIEHS Worker Training Program are to prevent work-related harm by assisting in the training of workers in how best to protect themselves and their communities from exposure to hazardous materials encountered during hazardous waste operations, hazardous materials transportation, environmental restoration nuclear weapons facilities, or chemical emergency response, and to undertake brownfields and minority workforce development. A variety of sites, such as those involved with chemical waste clean up and remedial action and transportation-related chemical emergency response, may pose severe health and safety concerns. These are often characterized by the multiplicity of substances present, the presence of unknown substances, and the general uncontrolled condition of the site. A major goal of this program is to assist organizations with development of institutional competency to provide appropriate model training and education programs to hazardous materials and waste workers.


“The Worker Training Program at NIEHS is really focused on prevention. It’s a grants program that we fund organizations to conduct health and safety training for workers engaged in all different types of hazardous waste removal, containment, or chemical emergency response.”

“I think one of the major reasons why this program [the Minority Worker Training Program] was started is that we were noticing the major changes that were happening in urban communities, and primarily, this particular program was started because Congressman Stokes saw that there was a need to train urban, underserved workers who needed to have access to quality job training and have a way to help clean up their communities, and so he worked to get the program funded in 1994 so that we could start training in 1995.”

“Under the Minority Worker Training, we’re now calling that the Environmental Career Worker Training Program. We’ve actually trained over 10,000; we’re close to 11,000 workers under that program. And what’s unique about it is that we did it in partnership with community-based organizations.”

“We have been able to at least get a 70% job-placement rate since we started this program back in 1995. And even over the last five years, we’ve had job-placement rates that’s ranging from 70 up to 81 percent for some of these communities, and that’s pretty much unheard of when you think about what’s happening in workforce development right now.”

“One of the biggest things about being a part of this program is that communities do not understand all of the different types of benefits that these programs have addressed over the years, and what we’ve been able to do here at NIEHS is to really focus on building communities and wanting to share the successes and lessons learned across the board.”

“Most of the individuals who came out of this program [the Environmental Career Worker Training Program] receive higher earnings as a result of it; there were fewer workplace injuries and related costs; we had reduced crime-related costs, which is a reduction in recidivism of those who were going back to prison; we had all different types of benefits in reference to lowering hiring costs, and there are several other things that we were able to do.”


2016 National Training & Resources Summit to Revitalize Vulnerable Communities –Moving Communities from Surviving to Thriving

NIEHS Worker Training Program

NIEHS Environmental Career Worker Training Program

The Economic Impact of the Environmental Career Worker Training Program – NIEHS, November 2015

Minority Worker Training Program: Guidance on How to Achieve Successes and Best Practices –NIEHS, March 2014

Infinite Earth Radio Episode 42: Moving Vulnerable Communities from Surviving to Thriving, Part 3 –with Khalil Shahyd, NRDC

Infinite Earth Radio Episode 41: Moving Vulnerable Communities from Surviving to Thriving, Part 2 –with Gilbert Campbell, Volt Energy

Infinite Earth Radio Episode 40: Moving Vulnerable Communities from Surviving to Thriving, Part 1 –with Mustafa Ali, EPA

Infinite Earth Radio Episode 5: Environmental Justice and Smart Growth – with Mustafa Ali and Carlton Eley, EPA


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