Ads by Google Ads by Google

NOAA to provide $1 Million to train American Samoans for Green Jobs

noaa logo
Compiled by Samoa News staff

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — In American Samoa, the sea level is rising at four times the global average, according to a 2019 NASA study. This increases the Pacific Ocean island’s risk of saltwater intrusion, which can contaminate freshwater supplies, a problem it currently faces. 

Vacancies in American Samoa’s agency managing water — the American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA) — are leaving a shortage of people to tackle these climate issues. The vacancies are also leaving a newly built filtration plant without 24/ 7 staffing.  

“We’ve been seeing increasing amounts of saltwater intrusion, and that’s required a lot of additional expertise that we don’t have here,” Kelley Anderson Tagarino, the American Samoa extension specialist at the American Samoa Community College told Inside Climate News. “It’s not so much a distinction in skills as it is that we don’t have the privilege of specialization here. You need to be a generalist.” 

But a new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) initiative will make it possible for American Samoa to train new workers with the skills to manage the island’s saltwater intrusion and other environmental issues by providing more than $1 million in funding.

That’s part of NOAA’s Climate-Ready Workforce effort, which committed $60 million in funding to nine projects across 10 U.S. states and territories last month. The initiative aims to train professionals for jobs that increase climate resilience.

Funding comes from the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. The programs will be based in American Samoa, Alaska, California, Washington, Texas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The official statement announcing the initiative said that it “will also assist employers in developing a 21st-century workforce that is climate literate and skilled at addressing climate challenges.” 

The nine projects were picked from a pool of 95 applicants.

According to Joshua Brown, the National Sea Grant Office’s environmental literacy and workforce development lead, the proposals were judged by experts with knowledge of climate resilience, workforce development and working with underserved communities. Organizers wanted to fund a combination of projects that would offer the most diverse set of skills to workers. 

The selected projects will support training and skill development for jobs including water and wastewater treatment operations in American Samoa. With the population of roughly 55,000, one person plays many roles in American Samoa.

According to Tagarino, the grant will allow them to appoint a trainer who will visit twice a year for two months to provide instruction for working people in their off-hours to develop the skills needed to fill vacancies at ASPA. An assessment of the facilities and skills required to operate them will dictate the course of the training.

The funding is intended to run over a period of four years, after which the projects are expected to find other funding to support their training needs. As governments continue to invest heavily in building climate-resilient workforces and industries, experts say the efforts need to be more well-rounded. 

Meena Naik, director of SkillsFirst Design, and her team at Jobs For the Future have been researching the future of green jobs. They concluded that the future of the corporate world lies in “green skills” and not so much in “green jobs.”

According to Naik, the efforts to up-skill climate-resilient workers needs to be more far-sighted. The training and skill development required to fill industry gaps changes periodically.

Managing data, for instance, was once a skill only required by data analysts. But as the data and tech industry continues to grow, most if not all workers are expected to know the basics of data management. Naik believes that as the green sector expands, the skills once considered only useful for climate resilience jobs will spill over into other industries, making them more essential to a wider range of workers.

(Sources: Inside Climate News, NOAA, NASA)