The Navajo Nation Environmental Workforce Development (NNEWD) program is a job training and placement assistance program for eligible Navajo tribal members. The program is funded by a grant from the United
States Environmental Protection Agency and coordinated by the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP) at Northern Arizona University. The NNEWD program is designed to address remediation plans
of over 500 sites on Navajo land that are contaminated with radioactive materials and waste, due to past uranium mining operations. Since fall 2013, ITEP has worked with project partners, the Navajo Nation
Environmental Protection Agency and the Navajo Nation Department of Workforce Development, to provide Navajo Nation members with the skills necessary to secure employment in the environmental cleanup field. With
essential training and professional certifications in hand, these tribal members can effectively compete for the cleanup jobs slated to begin in the near future.
Legacy of Uranium Mining:
Over 500 sites contaminated by radioactive waste and materials honeycomb the Navajo Nation, caused by a legacy of uranium mining operations that began in the 1940s. Many of these sites, including abandoned mines and tailings, present public health and environmental risks in Navajo communities. Cleanup activities have taken place at some sites over the past few years, but new abandoned uranium mines and contaminated sites are being discovered even now.
For more information about Navajo uranium mining legacy and cleanup efforts, visit:
Addressing Uranium Contamination on the Navajo Nation
Need for the NNEWD:
With challenges of high unemployment rates and low economic growth on the Navajo Nation, opportunities for full-time, consistent employment are difficult to come by and many tribal members must drive long distances to off-reservation towns and cities for employment. Furthermore, the rural nature of the majority of the population and difficulties of acquiring desirable employment in such remote locations, make this program of critical importance. By providing Navajo members with access to advanced training and professional certification, ITEP will assist the target population with securing meaningful and necessary employment on cleanup activities near their homes.
Using radiation detection equipment
The four-week training schedule involves courses that address hazardous waste operations, site worker safety standards, radiation hazards, other workplace health hazards, and cultural response to hazardous environments. Basically, the overarching goal of the NNEWD training program is to train the participants with environmental cleanup and occupational safety skills to ensure job readiness. Training courses and activities include: