When the 2010 Gulf oil spill reached the shores of Louisiana, The Dillard University Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, part of a New Orleans based HBCU, jumped into the oil spill response to support workers and communities impacted by oil, many of whom were still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. Dillard, an NIEHS Worker Training Program (WTP) grantee, provided expert trainers to deliver 40-hour HAZWOPER, 10 hour refresher courses and awareness training to early response workers in the Gulf.
In addition to supporting the training needs of workers from around the country gathering in the Gulf, Dillard utilized a unique training program to train workers in Louisiana's underserved communities in the health, safety and life-skills needed to support spill clean-up in their own back yards. The Environmental Career Worker Training Program (ECWTP), funded by NIEHS, focuses on delivering comprehensive training to increase the number of disadvantaged and underrepresented minority workers in areas such as environmental restoration, construction, hazardous materials/waste handling, and emergency response. Dillard's successful track record in placing ECWTP participants in safe jobs led them to focus on training ECWTP participants in the skills and safety awareness needed to support the oil spill cleanup. Through this unique training program, Dillard had a cohort of ECWTP graduates receive work in the response. Dillard's model program highlights how health and safety training can both support national disaster response and provide local jobs to willing, but underserved, community members during a disaster.