WASHINGTON, D.C. – Joined by Senior White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett and several hundred schoolchildren on the National Mall, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today signed a Secretarial Order establishing an Office of Youth in Natural Resources at the Department of the Interior.
“President Obama and I believe that during tough economic times, a new national youth program is needed to provide jobs, outdoor experiences and career opportunities for young people –especially women, minorities, tribal and other underserved youth,” Salazar said.
Jarrett, who chairs the White House Council on Women and Girls, joined the Secretary to emphasize the President's commitment to the Department of the Interior's new youth program. “This program will be a great boost to the Administration's efforts to provide jobs and opportunities for young men and women. Providing career paths in natural resources will be particularly helpful to women, who are under-represented in the sciences. That is exactly the reason that President Obama created the White House Council on Women and Girls—he wanted all government agencies to help give young women the opportunities that their mothers and grandmothers could not even envision.”
The Office of Youth in Natural Resources will coordinate present and future youth initiatives, the signature program of which will be a 21st Century Youth Conservation Corps. The corps will be modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps that provided 3 million men with jobs in the 1930s. By comparison, the 21st Century Youth Conservation Corps will include women as well as men and strive for greater diversity.
“The program will engage thousands of young men and women in all states and territories, from diverse backgrounds, including tribal and underserved populations and those who have little opportunity to experience the outdoors,” Salazar said
The Secretary said that the Interior Department expects the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to result in the employment of an additional 5,000 young people by this summer. Many thousands of additional young people will be engaged in outdoor programs in the coming months through stimulus funds, increased appropriations, new youth programs and expansion of existing programs.
Secretary Salazar also lauded Robert Stanton, the new Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Management and Budget, who will oversee the Office of Youth in Natural Resources. Stanton previously was a career professional who rose to serve Director of the National Park Service during the second half of the Clinton Administration.
Three career jobs to staff the new office already are being listed on USAJOBS.gov. To assist Stanton and the office director, the order also establishes a Youth Conservation Coordinating Council, consisting of a senior representative designated by the head of each participating bureau and office.
Salazar said the jobs are urgently needed because young people are unemployed at high rates. Last summer, 3 million young people were unemployed and the youth unemployment rate in July 2008 was 13.5%, the highest it has been for July since 1992. Youth unemployment disproportionately affects minorities. In addition, women are underrepresented in jobs such as park ranger and civil engineer at the Department. It is hoped the youth initiatives will provide career pathways for employment in natural resources.
“Jobs are not the only reason for such a program,” Salazar said. “When President Franklin Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, he said, ‘More important than material gains will be the moral and spiritual value of such work.'”