Feds announce green jobs program on South Side

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday announced a new program to use federal stimulus money to train 80 Chicagoans for green jobs.

OAI, a national non-profit that provides job training, will teach participants how to clean up contaminated industrial sites and weatherize buildings.

Once trainees graduate from the 16-week course, OAI will help place them in jobs, primarily on the South Side.

The program will improve energy efficiency in low-income homes in the 9th and 34th wards by weatherizing them.

Thus, officials say, the program will help the environment, save money for residents and provide an economic boost for workers. 

Additionally, says EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, the program will target so-called brownfield sites on the South Side. Industrial contamination at those sites delays economic development and prevents new businesses from using available land, she says.

The program “will generate new economic possibilities,” she says. “Poison in the ground means poison in the economy.”

John Jeffries is a graduate of OAI’s green program and is now employed with the GreenCorps Chicago. Jeffries says the training provides certification through the state, allowing trainees to clean up toxic or dangerous materials, such as asbestos and lead. Jeffries says the green industry is here to stay.

“It’s very important, it’s only going to get bigger and bigger,” says Jeffries.