Tromping around the classroom in oversized moon suits, a class of disadvantaged, young adults from New Jersey's inner cities has been studying this past week at NJIT how to start a career cleaning up hazardous wastes. The program, run under the auspices of the New Jersey Youth Corps, is part of a larger four-week course of study. It aims to put people to work, plus teach them life skills, including how to complete a high school diploma. Recent program graduates will soon head to the Gulf of Mexico to clean up the oil spill.
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“Learning how to work safely is the first step in the training program to help these students start a career path as environmental technicians,” said Albert Arnofsky, an environmental health and safety specialist with NJIT’s Division of Continuing Professional Education. Arnofsky, who teaches the class, is a chemical engineer. He says that when students finish this intensive training they will be valuable assets to New Jersey’s initiatives to recover contaminated properties and create both green properties and jobs.
Perhaps the most exciting day for the students was learning how to put on the oxygen mask, attach the canister to their backs and step into the oversized lime green or canary yellow plastic moon suits. These outfits are typically worn to clean up contaminated properties and old buildings.
Once suited up, the students walked around the classroom and out into the NJIT game room and bowling alley, where they played pool, even tossed a few bowling balls down the alley, wearing suits. NJIT teachers stood nearby providing first-hand instruction on how to walk, work and move in the protective gear. Students also learned how to function as technicians in the environmental arena.
The program is part of NJIT's ongoing mission to foster economic development at all levels throughout the state. NJIT has been offering health and safety programs like this one since 1990. New Jersey companies hire program graduates at salaries starting upwards of $25,000. For more information about the program, contact Continuing Professional Education at NJIT (1-800-624-9850).