State officials recently announced the start of the (POC) that offers paid work experience, job training, and educational opportunities to young people who complete recreation and conservation projects at state parks, forestlands, and other Pennsylvania public lands.
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn joined Department of Labor & Industry (DLI) Secretary Kathy Manderino and representatives of the Student Conservation Association in launching the initiative in York County.
“The (POC) will help to protect and restore public lands and waters, while providing young people with the knowledge and expertise to be good stewards of our natural resources,” said Dunn. “This program will connect youth and young adults with job opportunities relating to the outdoors and the environment and provide training in work skills necessary for future successful employment.”
The new program is a key element of the department’s youth initiative — one of six “to position the department as a leader in areas that go far beyond the operation and stewardship of our state parks and forests. This employment and enrichment program is managed by DCNR in cooperation with the Student Conservation Association (SCA), with financial and program support provided by DCNR and the Department of Labor and Industry,” Dunn explained.
Initial roll-out of the POC is financed through the DLI’s Reemployment Fund.
“(DLI) is pleased to support the (POC) and to collaborate with our sister agency at DCNR,” said Manderino. “Work experience for high school students is tantamount to later career success and we can’t think of a better way to experience working in Pennsylvania than through one of its state parks.”
“In addition to safeguarding the state’s natural resources, the POC will provide participants with empowering leadership and career tracks,” SCA Eastern Regional Vice President Christopher Jackson said. “The widespread benefits of this program will be felt for years to come, and SCA is delighted to be part of this important partnership.”
SCA was chosen through competitive bid to manage the daily program operations.
The statewide program is based in state parks and forests locations in rural and urban locations in all regions of the state, particularly those areas within close proximity to disadvantaged communities and school districts. Crews will be dispatched within the region, working on public lands with resource and infrastructure project needs.
Initial site locations are in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Wilkes-Barre and Johnstown.
While initially project work will be performed on state park and forestlands, DCNR aims to expand the POC work areas on a cost-share basis to local land managers with municipal and county parks and recreation departments in 2017.
The POC consists of two components: a six-week, summer program for youth between the ages of 15-18; and a 10-month program for young adults ages 18-25, which will launch in early 2017.
The POC will tackle hands-on projects such as trail restoration, tree planting, light construction, shoreline restorations and invasive species management in state and local parks, state forests and other public lands, as well as undertake specialty projects in relation to recreation and conservation, which may include public outreach, research and assessments.
The SCA is America’s oldest and largest youth conservation organization that seeks to conserve land and transform lives by empowering young people of all backgrounds to plan, act and lead, while they protect and restore natural and cultural resources.
Founded in 1957, its mission is to build future conservation leaders, and seven in 10 of SCA’s 80,000 alumni worldwide are employed or studying in conservation-related fields.