EPA announces $20 million in grants to help bolster water workforce

worker at treatment plant

The Biden-Harris administration is announcing the availability of more than $20 million in grant funding to support training and career opportunities for water and wastewater workers through the U.S. EPA’s Innovative Water Infrastructure Workforce Development Grant program.

Frontline workers at water and wastewater treatment utilities across the country are central to public health, environmental, and economic well-being in all communities, big and small. The water industry is facing wide-spread shortages of qualified workers due to expected retirements, needed investments in the nation’s infrastructure, and new technical and scientific skill sets required to operate and maintain these systems. Current estimates indicate that as many as one third of water workers will be eligible to retire within the next 5-10 years.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to Investing in America, and that means investing in the workers that build and operate our nation’s water systems,” said EPA Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “Our Innovative Water Infrastructure Workforce Development Grant Program supports local programs that help people get the training they need to enter the water workforce or the necessary upskilling to advance in their careers.”

The focus of the Innovative Water Infrastructure Workforce Development Grant program is to build a strong pool of skilled and diverse workers in the water and wastewater utilities sector. This grant program supports collaboration among federal, state, and local governments and institutions of higher education, apprentice programs, labor organizations, high schools, and other community-based organizations to provide access to workforce opportunities and build career pipelines in the water sector. There are six program areas:

  • Targeted internships apprenticeships for skilled water utility trades.
  • Education programs designed for elementary, secondary, and higher education students.
  • Regional industry and workforce development collaborations to hiring qualified candidates.
  • Leadership development, occupational training, mentoring, or cross-training programs that support career advancement.
  • Education and training programs designed for decentralized (septic) water workers to support public health for communities that rely on private wells for drinking water or septic systems.
  • Training and development for workforce development programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants to benefit disadvantaged communities.

Applications must be received by EPA by Nov. 17, 2023.

Learn more about the Innovative Water Infrastructure Workforce Development Grant program.

Background

The Innovative Water Infrastructure Workforce Development Grant was established through the America’s Water Infrastructure Act, passed by Congress in 2018. Eligible applicants for this competitive agreement under Project Areas one through five are nonprofit professional or service organizations, nonprofit labor organizations, nonprofit community colleges, institutions of higher education, other nonprofit training and educational institutions, and public works departments. Under Project Area six eligible applicants are community-based organizations (CBOs) and CBOs who partner with an Indian tribe, a local government, or an institution of higher education.

Questions about applying for EPA funding for the Innovative Water Infrastructure Workforce Development cooperative agreement must be received by October 17, 2023. Questions can be submitted by emailing waterworkforceRFA@epa.gov. Applications must be received by EPA by November 17, 2023. EPA encourages all eligible organizations who have an interest in these projects to apply.

Learn more about the recipients from the last round of funding and EPA’s activities on building the water workforce.

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