(22/P030) TRENTON – The Department of Environmental Protection has launched a pilot workforce development program to help the State of New Jersey develop the next generation of protection, conservation and stewardship leaders while providing opportunities for young adults in communities with limited open space to engage with nature as they provide valuable stewardship services to the public through seasonal employment at DEP. Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette launched the inaugural program in the summer of 2021 and is expanding its reach this year with a cohort of young adults from three of New Jersey’s urban centers.
The DEP Youth Inclusion Initiative 2022 was born out of a partnership with Groundwork Elizabeth, Rutgers University Camden and The Ironbound Community Corporation of Newark will create a workforce development program for people ages 17-24. This year’s cohort will learn and undertake work in DEP-regulated sectors, including water quality, air quality and public land management. The program will provide valuable information about careers in environmental protection and help participants develop the skills needed to pursue these career paths in New Jersey.
“DEP’s Youth Inclusion Initiative is designed to inform and inspire the next generation of leaders by introducing them to careers in public service where they can make lifelong connections to their surroundings while being paid for their work. protection of natural resources within their communities”, said Commissioner LaTourette. “Programs like this help build a pool of environmental professionals from diverse backgrounds who will be ready and enthusiastic to meet the challenges of tomorrow.”
“Our hope is that this eight-week program will inspire these young adults to pursue careers in the environmental field,” said Elizabeth Dragon, Assistant Commissioner for Community Investment and Economic Revitalization. “Attendees will have the unique opportunity to be exposed to and engage in a variety of environmental topics and careers. »
DEP launched the initiative as part of the New Jersey State Park Service Workforce Development Program where participants learned about New Jersey’s great outdoors and worked on marking and maintaining nature trails , providing assistance to visitors, helping to deliver nature programs and helping in improving park facilities. This year, DEP expanded the Youth Inclusion Initiative to provide training and work opportunities in additional areas, including human resources, geographic information systems, water resources, water quality, and more. air, energy and sustainability, land management, parks, forestry, wildlife and waste management.
Participants began the summer initiative on July 5 with a week of orientation classes. They now spend six weeks familiarizing themselves with the various DEP programs and will end the eighth and final week with individual and group projects and presentations. The program ends on August 26. Groundwork Elizabeth sent 12 participants to this year’s program. Rutgers Camden and the Ironbound Community Corporation each sent 10.
Groundwork Elizabeth is an outgrowth of the Groundwork program founded in England in 1979 to engage the community, public and private sectors in addressing urban community issues. Groundwork Elizabeth does this by promoting economic and social well-being in the Elizabeth area through several community partnerships to empower residents, businesses, educational institutions and other organizations working to improve quality. of life.
“Groundwork Elizabeth and the City of Elizabeth Housing Authority are thrilled to be part of DEP’s inclusive youth initiative. No one in our community is more affected by environmental injustice than the young residents of the Housing Authority,” said Jackie Park Albaum, director of urban agriculture. “Living in a formerly gated community, our young people are more likely to suffer from asthma at an early age, have a higher percentage of heart disease than the New Jersey average, and live in multigenerational families living at or in below the property line. This program creates opportunities for our youth to immerse themselves in the work of NJDEP and prepares them to lead the changes our community desperately needs.
The Ironbound Community Corporation strives to engage and empower individuals, families and groups by creating a just, vibrant and sustainable community. Founded in 1969, the Ironbound Community Corporation focuses on addressing unmet needs and service gaps, especially for underserved populations; supports child development and strengthens families; promotes self-esteem, autonomy and civic participation; and offers culturally and language appropriate programs.
“After having had such an incredible experience in the summer of 2021, we are both thrilled and honored to have this second opportunity to work with DEP,” said Charles Barlow-Richardson, director of programs for the Ironbound Community Corporation. “Our young people look forward to another opportunity to learn ways to help ensure the preservation of the environment for future generations.
Rutgers Camden has a deep connection to the local community through its civic engagement initiatives and programs to build and enhance an inclusive community.
“As an anchor institution in the city of Camden, we are deeply committed to providing young people in the city and surrounding areas with opportunities for experiences that broaden their horizons and provide them with a pathway to higher education and a career”, said Nyeema C. Watson, Ph.D., the university’s vice chancellor for diversity, inclusion and civic engagement. “Camden has faced significant environmental challenges and we are thrilled to partner with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, to help young people in Camden and surrounding communities discover the potential career paths they can continue and that will allow them to be the agents of change that we need for a more equitable and sustainable future.
A video on the Youth Inclusion Initiative can be viewed here.
Follow Commissioner LaTourette on Twitter and Instagram @shawnlatur and follow the DEP on Twitter @NewJerseyDEP, Facebook @newjerseydep, Instagram @nj.dep and LinkedIn @newjerseydep