NEW YORK — Leaders from the U.S. Departments of Labor, Interior and Agriculture joined in New York City at the Outdoor Nation Youth Summit on June 20 to announce the launch of a $20 million federal grant opportunity and implementation of an initiative designed to help disadvantaged youth prepare for jobs in the outdoors. Through a national grant competition, funds will be awarded to enable ex-offenders ages 18 to 24 to give back to their communities through service and conservation work, while simultaneously acquiring solid employment skills. The grant competition is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2010.
The program was unveiled by Assistant Secretary Jane Oates of the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration; the U.S. Department of the Interior's Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget Rhea Suh; and U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Harris Sherman. At the Outdoor Nation Youth Summit, administration officials conducted two “listening sessions” with the 500 youth participants in the event to hear their perspectives on the president's America's Great Outdoors Initiative and the challenges and opportunities for youth engaging in outdoor activities and pursuing employment in green jobs.
“This multi-agency partnership will allow disadvantaged youth to prepare for lucrative green jobs and outdoor careers, including federal employment with public land management agencies,” said Oates. “Our joint initiative also will provide support for meaningful service projects on public lands currently experiencing a backlog.”
“We are always looking for opportunities to bring disadvantaged youth onto our forests and grasslands, and this project will provide resource protection, training and jobs while instilling in the corps members a lifelong connection and appreciation for our country's amazing lands,” said Sherman. “We look forward to working on this rewarding and important partnership.”
“This initiative provides young people an opportunity to get their lives on the right track while serving their communities and gaining a love for America's great outdoors,” said Suh. “It is a win for everyone.”
Prior to the grant competition, the three agencies will begin their partnership by implementing a pilot program this summer to increase outdoor employment opportunities for youth. The pilot will target local workforce areas to place youth in Youth Conservation Corps and other summer employment opportunities on public lands. Some of those opportunities will include working at national parks and forests, conservation areas, historic sites and tribal lands.
The partnership provides bureaus at the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture with the ability to engage youth looking to work and learn about outdoor occupations. At the same time, local workforce areas are provided with expanded support for their worksites where youth can receive work experience, supervision and an education about natural resources, conservation and becoming good stewards of public lands and resources. For more information on Department of Labor training programs, visit http://www.doleta.gov.