Providing education resources for the emerging green workforce is a natural fit
The beginning of the school year always brims with promise and excitement. For many who are close to graduating, it’s time to explore their options in the workforce.
I hope they’ll consider a career in natural resources and conservation.
Right now, there is a great need in Maryland and around the nation for workers skilled in managing natural resources and building resiliency into the landscape as we confront challenges ranging from climate change impacts to the spread of invasive species.
The Department of Natural Resources has a variety of programs designed for students and young adults to serve in their communities protecting and enhancing Maryland’s natural resources. These opportunities can help teens and young adults begin their careers in a range of environmental and conservation fields.
Each summer, the department offers the Natural Resources Careers Camp, a seven-day program with curriculum designed by natural resources professionals in partnership with the state’s Forestry Boards. Traditional forestry is the main focus of this educational experience with the inclusion of GIS and GPS technology, urban forestry, wildlife habitat, fisheries, and watershed ecology. This co-educational camp provides an opportunity for high school students interested in a career in natural resources to learn from industry professionals and develop contacts for future employment.
Another of our premier programs is the Maryland Conservation Corps, managed by the Maryland Park Service. Participants come from across the country, are between the ages of 17 and 25, and complete at least 1,700 hours of service through 10 months. This past year’s Corps class improved more than 3,500 acres of parks and public lands; planted more than 9,700 native trees, bay grasses and plants; treated more than 7,200 trees against harmful insects and diseases; and taught environmental education programs to more than 23,000 students, youth, and park visitors. Later this month we will welcome a new class.
A related summer program is the Maryland Conservation Jobs Corps, which provides four weeks of job training, conservation education, hard work, and fun for youths ages 14 to 17 and young adults ages 18 to 20. Jobs Corps members complete hands-on projects throughout Maryland’s State Parks. They engage in tasks that benefit communities and public lands while learning about public service and stewardship, and participate in exciting outdoor activities, including camping and wildlife observation.
Throughout the school year, the department’s Education team provides resources for teachers to ensure that Maryland’s youth experience, understand, and learn to conserve the natural environment. This year, we launched the Girls Exploring Outdoors program, which took a group of students from Anne Arundel County out on kayaks at Sandy Point State Park. The students also went fishing and learned how to set up a tent. For many of the girls, the experience was the first time being on the water or paddling a kayak.
These types of opportunities can also provide a second chance for some of our young people. This year the department partnered with the Department of Juvenile Services on a program to expand opportunities for youth in our Juvenile Services facilities. This initiative was announced by Governor Wes Moore earlier this year as part of his all-of-the-above approach to public safety focused on supporting law enforcement; building stronger, more vibrant communities; coordinating across all aspects of government; and investing in Maryland’s youth.
During this innovative program, facility residents are working alongside rangers, foresters, and fisheries staff in Garrett, Allegany, and Washington counties. They help complete projects twice a week involving groundskeeping, landscaping, trail maintenance, and construction that enhance beautification and conservation efforts in our state forests and parks.
Importantly, these programs also empower our young people with necessary skills toward careers in the growing green economy. Supporting young people in these career paths is essential to providing a sustainable environment to the next generation and those who follow.
Josh Kurtz is Secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
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