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Higgins: More than $571,000 to support green workforce development in Buffalo


Mon, Oct 31st 2022 04:05 pm

Federal funding supports Buffalo Sewer Authority’s green infrastructure stewardship program

Congressman Brian Higgins was joined by City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Buffalo Sewer Authority General Manager O.J. McFoy, and Heart of the City Neighborhoods on Monday to announce a federal investment totaling $571,934 in the Buffalo Green Infrastructure Stewardship and Workforce Development Program. Funding for the initiative, secured by Higgins as part of the federal 2022 budget, will provide training for careers in green infrastructure maintenance.

“Our community’s economic future depends on the availability of sustainable, good-paying jobs,” Higgins said. “A federal investment in this program is an investment in people, in our city, and in a clean and healthy environment for our neighbors today and into the future.”

Brown said, "As the City of Buffalo continues to find new and innovative ways to improve lives for city residents, the Buffalo Sewer Authority’s green infrastructure program is a perfect example of that innovation at work. This program will not only help reduce pollution through storm water management, but it will also train workers and provide them with the skills required to work in the green infrastructure industry. I want to thank Congressman Brian Higgins for securing the necessary funding for this program, and we will continue to work closely with Congressman Higgins to make Buffalo a better place for all."

CEO and General Manager for Buffalo Sewer Authority Oluwole (OJ) McFoy, P.E., said, "The mission of the Buffalo Sewer Authority’s green infrastructure stewardship program focuses on pollution reduction through stormwater management. To achieve this, we need a skilled workforce, and the funding secured by Congressman Higgins will allow us to do exactly that, by training the next generation of green infrastructure workers. On behalf of the Buffalo Sewer Authority, we thank Congressman Brian Higgins for his leadership, and look forward to working with him in the future on endeavors like this one."

A press release said, “Green infrastructure is designed to address challenges related to stormwater. When it rains or snow melts, the water flows through storm drains and into the city’s combined sewer system. In dry weather, the sewer system is able to treat all wastewater. However, when more water enters the system, some can flow into our fresh waterways.

“The Buffalo Sewer Authority has committed to deploying green infrastructure throughout the community to manage runoff, increase climate change resiliency, protect Western New York’s water supply, and improve overall quality of life in Buffalo neighborhoods.

“The green infrastructure stewardship and workforce development program addresses the stormwater challenge with a focus on economic and environmental equity. The program engages young people ages 18-30 into the fast-growing environmental sector by providing focused training, support, and placement opportunities. Working to produce a talent pipeline, the program offers complete wrap-around work readiness skills training and support services, along with on-the-job training in green infrastructure maintenance. Participants have the chance to acquire job certifications such as first aid, CPR, and OSHA 10 on top of working alongside mentors already established within the field. They also receive over 35 hours of classroom instruction through the National Green Infrastructure Certification Program (NGICP), allowing them to receive an industry-recognized certification.

“Upon completion of the program, students can earn the opportunity to join the Buffalo Sewer workforce or other green job placements in the area, in addition to post-secondary education support. The first phase began in 2021 with 100% of graduates joining the Buffalo Sewer workforce.

“Local program administrator Heart of the City Neighborhoods, and the Service Collaborative of Western New York, a recruitment partner, work alongside the Buffalo Sewer Authority to strengthen its green infrastructure workforce and build a more sustainable future for the City of Buffalo.

“Working in collaboration with program consultant PowerCorps PHL, Heart of the City Neighborhood kicked off phase two of the program in March 2022, more than doubling the number of participants from phase one. Engaging a team of nine workers, the 2022 program will culminate in November. The group is developing the experience needed for a successful career in green infrastructure maintenance, which will not only expand the skilled workforce of Buffalo, but also promote the use of environmentally friendly practices. The team is exposed to the daily duties associated with green infrastructure maintenance with professional development support from Buffalo Sewer Authority and Heart of the City Neighborhood staff and guest speakers. As trainees, they are learning how to address local stormwater challenges and combined sewer overflows, and working to prevent pollution in the Great Lakes Region.”

The workforce investment follows the announcement of a $55 million project, supported in part by the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure law, to upgrade the Buffalo Sewer Authority’s Wastewater Treatment Facility.

Heart of the City Neighborhoods (HOCN) is a local nonprofit organization that works to facilitate and support housing and neighborhood development in the City of Buffalo through sustainable projects. To learn more, visit https://hocn.org/.

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