Innovative Maryland Program Provides Green Job Training

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Members of the 2013-2014 Chesapeake Conservation Corps prepare the ground for planting shrubs before beginning their new assignments. Photo: Chesapeake Conservation Corps
Members of the 2013-2014 Chesapeake Conservation Corps prepare the ground for planting shrubs before beginning their new assignments. Photo: Chesapeake Conservation Corps

More than two dozen young adults will spend the next year improving Maryland’s environment while getting valuable on-the-job training.

The latest class of the Chesapeake Conservation Corps program, which is administered by the Chesapeake Bay Trust and pairs young adults with conservation-minded organizations throughout the state, rolled up their sleeves and went to work last week. The job training program, created in 2010 by the Maryland Legislature, puts participants to work in areas that will advance conservation efforts and help protect local rivers, streams and the Chesapeake Bay.

“The Maryland Legislature wanted to develop a corps program that engaged young people in the conservation of natural resources,” explains Jana Davis, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Trust, which manages the Corps. “There were other programs out there, but we added the environmental piece and made it more of a mentorship-based experience.”

While other conservation corps programs typically have a crew-based approach, the Chesapeake Conservation Corps created an individual-focused program, where each participant works with an organization to accomplish conservation goals.

“Each one of the young people has a capstone project they’re responsible for,” Davis says. “It’s a way for them to build new skills, gain professional work experience, and it’s something they can use to market themselves when it’s done.”

As a result, many of the participants end up getting hired by the organization at the end of their one-year assignment. This year, 11 of the 25 participants landed full-time employment when their assignments ended in August. Among those were Ann DeSanctis, who worked as an environmental educator with the Anacostia Watershed Society, then was hired as its volunteer and project coordinator when her one-year term ended.

“This was an invaluable hands-on experience,” she says. “Being able to see how a nonprofit works, and to be able to get involved in a network like this, is so important. For me, it really helped me learn what it was that I wanted to do. It cemented in me that I am in the right field.”

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