Launching Careers in Green Infrastructure in New Orleans

Capital One is supporting the Greater New Orleans Foundation through a $500,000 grant to offer training in green infrastructure

The City of New Orleans continues to battle persistent flooding, antiquated drainage infrastructure and soil subsidence — all of which have adverse structural, social and economic impacts.

Since 2010, the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF) has worked to build the movement to live better with water

What is Green Infrastructure?
Green infrastructure is the use of ecological systems and landscapes to reduce flows to sewer systems or surface waters. 

There is currently more than $218 million dedicated across 26 active, or planned, projects to upgrade the city’s green infrastructure. In turn, GNOF estimates 1,100 jobs will be created or sustained in green infrastructure over the next three years. 

Supporting Education Programs in Green Infrastructure
Capital One is supporting a GNOF led project through $500,000 in grant funding to help develop, implement and expand the first entry-level green infrastructure curriculum program in New Orleans.

The Clean Water Certificate, co-designed with the Center for Watershed Protection, provides participants with foundational knowledge and skills in stormwater management, mitigation, installation and maintenance best practices in an effort to lessen the amount of stormwater deposited into the municipal water system.

A Thrive Works Green participant at the site of a green infrastructure project.

Recognizing that 14 percent of Black individuals in New Orleans are unemployed compared to 7 percent of the general population, this course strives to provide credentialing in environmental management to unemployed and underemployed job seekers, many of whom are people of color.

“This curriculum is designed to both modernize New Orleans' aging stormwater management systems and to address the underlying barriers to accessing employment faced by people of color,” says Karen DeBlieux, New Orleans Market President at Capital One. “We are grateful for the opportunity to join forces with GNOF to create an initiative that supports new job creation, training pipelines and the equitable distribution of opportunities."

Green infrastructure comes to life in the form of trench digging and constructing channels designed to direct and manage stormwater runoff while removing debris and pollution. Rain gardens and bioswales, drainage pumps, permeable pavement and rain barrels are used as a means of green stormwater management.

The course is taught by various community partners throughout New Orleans and aims to train more than 100 people by September 2022.

The program’s first cohort, which kicked off in early 2021, is led by Thrive NOLA and features 15 participants from its Thrive Works Green initiative — which supports people of color that are either unemployed or underemployed.

  • In addition to stormwater management training, the Thrive Works Green Program allows for a robust delivery of services including foundation skills, social service support and stipends paid to students while in training.
  • It also places an emphasis on supporting formerly incarcerated individuals as approximately 48-52 percent of formerly incarcerated Black men in New Orleans were unemployed prior to the pandemic, according to New Orleans City Hall’s analysis of census data.

“It feels like our city is underwater,” says Chris Jones, a Thrive Works Green participant in the inaugural cohort. “When I walk through the streets of New Orleans, it’s plain to see the lack of green infrastructure. This curriculum has enabled me to help lay the groundwork for long-term sustainable management that turns the dream of flood prevention and mitigation into a reality.”

Chris Jones, a Thrive Works Green participant in the program's inaugural cohort. 

Preparing the New Orleans Community with Green Infrastructure Careers
After completing the program, participants are placed in jobs that aim to replace concrete with green infrastructure and recycle water equitably throughout neighborhoods in the city.

“The streets of New Orleans flood completely anytime it rains substantially,” says Chuck Morse, CEO of Thrive NOLA. “Capital One cares about the communities it operates in and is taking direct action against the looming effects of climate change. By supporting this green infrastructure curriculum, it’s investing in the people of our city who have been disenfranchised.”

Chuck Morse, CEO of Thrive NOLA

Supporting Socioeconomic Mobility
Capital One's support comes as part of the Capital One Impact Initiative — initial $200 million, multi-year commitment that strives to advance socioeconomic mobility. 

Launched in October 2020, the Capital One Impact Initiative seeks to create a world where everyone has an equal opportunity to prosper through advocating for an inclusive society, building thriving communities and creating financial tools that enrich lives.

Through collaboration with GNOF, Capital One seeks to develop green infrastructure programs and support job creation in New Orleans through stormwater management.

“The Green Infrastructure curriculum has already helped with managing over 40,000 gallons of water,” says Dr. Lauren King, Director of Workforce Programs at GNOF. “In addition to Thrive NOLA, we’ve trained six other organizations in the delivery of the Clean Water Certificate. We’re hoping to duplicate this programming for residents throughout the city and empower our workforce to be ready for the jobs being created in New Orleans in green infrastructure.”

Dr. Lauren King (left), Director for Workforce programs at GNOF chats with Andy Kopplin (right), President and CEO of GNOF.

Go deeper: King speaks to how GNOF's Green Infrastructure curriculum is empowering the city’s workforce.

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