by Alejandra Pallais, Director of Online Communications, Student Conservation Association
The focus on green jobs as a potential bright spot in a down economy has created a “sweet spot” for nonprofits like the Student Conservation Association (SCA) that were already focused on providing jobs skills and career training while addressing the nation’s conservation needs.
Last year through SCA, 4,200 young people provided some 2 million hours of meaningful conservation work in parks, forests and communities in every state in the nation. Not only are these young people conserving our natural and cultural treasures, but they're receiving job readiness training during a time of record youth unemployment. And, most importantly, they're on the path towards becoming lifelong stewards of our land.
The services rendered by SCA members bring immediate and tangible benefits to our environment, but ultimately SCA’s mission is to build new generations of conservation leaders. To that end, SCA has implemented a series of career and workforce development initiatives aimed at providing young participants with the critical hands-on skills they need to enter the conservation workforce. The programs are often in partnership with federal lands management agencies as well as with corporations looking to engage youth in sustainable jobs.
Below are three examples of young people who gained green jobs skills training as a result of an experiential partnership program between SCA and a federal partner.
The Tribal Intern program:
"College trained me to be a wildlife biologist and SCA and the bird refuge have given me incredible experience in this field," recent college graduate Micah Knabb said. "They have also allowed me to explore other areas of conservation and public outreach, and this has given me valuable awareness in planning my future goals."
Just days after graduating from Ohio University, SCA intern Micah Knabb reported to Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah. As part of SCA's new tribal intern program, Micah, a Cherokee, surveyed grasslands, inventoried bird species, and studied abnormalities in Northern Leopard frog populations. Armed with a fresh biology degree and field experience, he was eager for his next discovery.
Micah was one of 16 interns in the new tribal intern program in partnership with the Fish and Wildlife Service. The SCA tribal intern program yields new skills and insights, and places members on a path to professional careers. “We want students to see our career opportunities and come work for the Fish and Wildlife Service. SCA has been a great partner in helping us move this effort forward,” says Kevin Kilcullen, FWS chief of visitor services.
Join Micah as he shares his tales of “Geese catchin’ in airboats.”
The National Park Service Academy:
“Opportunities are spoken of often, yet one must pursue these opportunities to even have a chance. The Student Conservation Association and the National Park Service are organizations that help many people find and take hold of opportunities,” said 20-year old environmental science major April Hamblin. “These organizations worked together to make my summer at Yellowstone National Park unforgettable.”
April was one of two dozen college students who participated in the NPS Academy. The college students spent their Spring Break in March at Grand Teton National Park learning about professional opportunities in the National Park Service. Over the summer, the students interned at parks including Acadia, Fort McHenry and Glacier in roles ranging from resource management to interpretation. NPS Academy, a joint project between SCA and NPS, is designed to build a 21st Century workforce for America’s national parks: highly motivated, contemporarily skilled, and ethnically diverse.
April spent her summer at Yellowstone conducting bee mortality studies and surveying pika (tiny mammals related to hares), wetlands, and some of Yellowstone’s lesser known features: graves.
“It was so interesting,” she adds. “I learned so much. Working in the park really opened my eyes to career options.”
The Career Discovery Internship Program (CDIP):
“Being elevated from the duties of a typical intern to a biotechnician was something that I never expected,” said 20 year-old college student Serena Doose. “Having more responsibility really pushed me much farther and for that, I’m exceedingly grateful.”
Serena was stationed this summer as a Botany intern at Moosehorn National Wildlife in northern Maine as part of a joint partnership program between the Fish and Wildlife Service and SCA. The Career Discovery Internship program (CDIP) was created to help prepare the next generation of wildlife professionals and managers by introducing culturally and ethnically diverse college students to conservation careers. It also aims to increase the diversity of the applicant pool for conservation-based jobs, filling two critical needs for the future of green jobs: an expanded and trained workforce.
Serena spent most of her summer outside conducting waterfowl brood surveys, setting up tree stands, checking traps for American Woodcock, logging data, finding GPS points in the wilderness – or whatever job needed to be done at the refuge.
Halfway through her internship Serena realized that the reasons she took this position had become a reality. “I wanted to do something so out of my comfort zone; I wanted to come back after the summer knowing more about myself, about Maine, about the US Fish and Wildlife Service, about nature, and about everything else possible. I think that's just what I've done!”