This workforce development research project for Oxfam America and Limitless Vistas, Inc. identified opportunities to assist residents of vulnerable coastal communities and low-to-middle-income coastal workers to gain the skills necessary to meet employers’ needs for new middle-skill technician workers who can assist in executing restoration and conservation projects. Middle-skill jobs require more specialized training than a high school diploma can provide, but do not require a full four-year college degree.
Given the increasing level of funding currently flowing to the Gulf Coast region for coastal restoration projects, understanding whether new credentials could assist vulnerable residents in quickly gaining the technical skills needed for these jobs and allow the benefits of these projects to flow to the most-affected areas is a critical goal. In addition, examining the potential of these new credentials as the foundation of long-term career pathways for residents provides an opportunity to design programs that can lead to jobs with increasing wages and progressively higher levels of responsibility.
The research team conducted a Literature and Best Practice Review to examine nationwide best practices in stackable credentialing and environmental credentialing programs. A Labor Market Analysis provided information on Louisiana and Gulf Coast demand for environmental and ecosystem restoration occupations and opportunities for transitioning workers from related professions, including construction, the oil and gas industry, and other marine industries. Following this review of the available research and labor market data, the team conducted 39 individual interviews with an array of experts and key stakeholders.
The results of this research show that there is strong opportunity to engage low-income workers from vulnerable communities in coastal restoration work through the use of customized stackable credentialing programs that target local project demands and employer needs, and that funding these programs with adequate resources for training providers, trainees, and community-based partner organizations should be a priority to ensure long-term success.