Conservation Corps — Young Bodies for Old Problems

TH's editor, in Canada, was reading about that country's, David Suzuki, being a patron of the Youth Conservation Corps, based in South Australia! Mike thought it sounded like a great program, and as I was the local, give or take 1,400 km (890 miles), I might wish to mention it. So without further ado: the Youth Conservation Corps is a program to provide training and work experience for young people in the ages 15 to 24. Unemployed youth can become engaged in projects around the preservation of the natural environment, conservation of heritage buildings, conservation of energy resources, as well as the preservation of cultural or historic heritage. Projects can last for up to 6 months, providing real world skills, (including mandatory occupational health, safety & welfare, senior first aid, communication and team building modules, on all projects) that help participants find meaningful work afterwards. [more after the fold]The program is modelled a national version, known as Green Corps. Originally developed and managed by Conservation Volunteers Australia, for the Federal Government, Green Corps is now looked after by a variety of agencies throughout the country. But the aim remains the same: to provide projects with high quality, genuine environmental outcomes that also offer accredited training (Conservation and Land Management, Horticulture, etc) for young Australians aged between 17 and 20 years. Green Corps participants receive a training allowance to cover the 26 weeks they spend on the course.

Over 15,000 young Australians have worked on Green Corps projects planting more than 13 million trees, laying 7,000 kilometres of fencing, building or maintaining greater than 5,000 km of walking track. And they have also surveyed endangered flora and fauna, removed a vast combined acreage of introduced weed species, while restoring native ecological communities. In a previous life, this writer spent roughly two years, either managing, or directly supervising Green Corps teams on the ground. It was some of the most challenging and rewarding work I've ever done. I come from outdoor education background, ripe with experiential learning, but there is little to compare with seeing the satisfaction a young person gains from making a difference with their own hands. If you want to really know about something, you have to do it, seeing and hearing just don't cut it. That applies also to working with others. Working in the field with a team of your peers brings its own joys and stresses, some which the participants cope with well. Others less so. But there are real measurable outcomes, both environmental and personal. I've seen some of my team members years after their course, and it is remains a defining time in their lives.

Green Corps, in turn, took its inspiration from The California Conservation Corps. This is a long running, workforce development program, that offers young men and women (18-25 year old) the chance to serve their state, and become employable citizens through life skills training and hard work in environmental conservation, fire protection, and emergency response.

But there is also a Green Corps in the USA. Though it's a bit different. It's a one-year, full-time, paid Environmental Leadership Training Program giving "intensive classroom training, hands-on field experience running urgent environmental and public health campaigns, and career placement in permanent leadership positions with leading environmental groups."

And then there is AmeriCorps*NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps). Here teams of 10 to 12 men and women, aged 18—24, sign up for about 10 months worth of meaningful community-based projects addressing critical needs in education, public safety, emergency housing and the environment.

So, plenty of worthwhile programs in which young people can engage with their environment and community. No doubt there are equally valuable programs outside of the US and Australia. We look forward to readers regaling us with their experiences.