National Green Infrastructure Certification Program
Within the last decade, utilizing green infrastructure in tandem with existing “gray infrastructure” for stormwater management has become increasingly popular among local utilities and municipalities. Green infrastructure (GI) refers to managing stormwater where it falls by restoring or mimicking the natural flow of water through rain gardens, creek daylighting, permeable pavements, and other tactics. As utilities and municipalities embrace the many environmental advantages of implementing green infrastructure, there is also opportunity for job creation, especially in for economically disadvantaged communities. However, since green infrastructure is a relatively new strategy, it lacked uniform standards for implementation. As a result, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), DC Water, and fifteen additional partner water and wastewater utilities developed the National Green Infrastructure Certification Program (NGICP). The program promotes green infrastructure construction, inspection, and maintenance jobs by creating national, industry-specific standards.
Standardizing green infrastructure practices achieves multiple benefits, especially for vulnerable communities. Many communities face from flooding due to combined sewer overflows, while simultaneously struggling with high unemployment and poverty rates. By focusing green infrastructure installation and workforce development opportunities in these communities, utilities and municipalities improve vulnerable infrastructure, strengthen communities, and help lift socioeconomically disadvantaged populations out of poverty and into the middle class.
Most occupations related to green infrastructure for stormwater management are stable, entry-level jobs with low barriers to entry. Despite this benefit for unemployed and underemployed workers, the field requires specialized, technical training that much of the eligible workforce lacks. One of the goals of the NGICP is to create stable jobs for local residents to build, inspect, and maintain GI projects, by working with professional service firms, contractors, and utilities. For example, DC Water has set a goal of having 51 percent of new jobs from the GI program filled by DC area residents. The NGICP’s standardization of GI training will equip many people with professional and technical skills, and given that water sector jobs are in such high demand, the program will help connect its trainees with jobs well-suited to their skills.
In late 2016, the NGICP trained its inaugural class of candidates. Administered by seven NGICP partners across the country, the exam tested trainees’ understanding of green infrastructure fundamentals, construction methods, and maintenance procedures. The first class of 62 certified green infrastructure workers received their certificates in January 2017 and will be joined by more after the 2017 training and examination sessions and in 2018 when the program opens publicly to additional utilities and municipalities. While still in the early stages of implementation, the National Green Infrastructure Certification Program will increase access to technical training, facilitate GI-based job creation for local residents, and catalyze installation of green infrastructure solutions. Industry-lead programs like the NGICP will further professionalize the green infrastructure field and accelerate job growth in communities.