by Chet Hardin
Looking for a summer job? Great, your Colorado governor, John Hickenlooper, has got the hook-up. The catch is that you have to enjoy the out-of-doors, and you have to be between the ages of 18 and 24.
Wednesday the governor announced that that the state would be investing a million bucks into the Colorado Youth Corps Association, creating 400 jobs statewide. These jobs will in "stewardship projects for Colorado’s trails, parks, open spaces and wildlife habitat."
Half of these jobs will be this summer, and the other half will come later in 2011, and into 2012. According to a press release, the goal to create 54,000 hours of labor.
“Great Outdoors Colorado and the Colorado Youth Corps Association are combining two of Colorado’s best assets — our youth and our great outdoors,” Hickenlooper said in a press release. “These jobs will help provide young people with the job skills and training to be successful in future careers, while building a respect and love for the outdoors.”
If you are interested, you can visit the Mile High Youth Corps website for all the details.
The local youth corps in the Pikes Peak Region is Mile High Youth Corps based in Colorado Springs. The corps is in their recruitment and hiring phase right now and expects to hire 55 local young people between the ages of 18-24. Their projects will take place in several counties along the Southern Front Range. Four of the crews will be staged out of the office in Colorado Springs, one crew will work from of Cañon City.
The Colorado Department of Natural Resources has used GOCO funds since 1999 for youth corps to work on a variety of projects including weed removal, fire prevention, beetle kill removal and trail construction and enhancement. Local governments and land trusts will provide additional projects.
Youth corps teaches job readiness and leadership skills with the goal of preparing young citizens to be productive and ready for the work force. It also gives young people important time in the outdoors and educates them about a range of stewardship issues, including water conservation, land use, fire danger and the impact of invasive species. While in the corps, members can receive high school or college credits or prepare to take their GED. They are also eligible to receive funding for college, trade school or student loans.
The funding initiative announced today provides jobs for a segment of the population with high unemployment. In 2010, the unemployment rate for 16 to 24 year olds was 15.7% in Colorado, compared to an overall statewide rate of 8.7%.
“We are thrilled that Great Outdoors Colorado has chosen to dedicate funds to employ and train young people who are eager and willing to work hard to improve our public lands,” said Jennifer Freeman, CYCA’s executive director.
“We’re so excited that the governor and Greater Outdoors Colorado has seen the connection between youth unemployment and the work that can be done on our public lands. We always welcome the opportunity to put young people to work in a job that often changes their lives and produces our next generation of land stewards.”
Melanie Weber-Sauer graduated from Manitou Springs High School in 2010 and was a corps member last summer. She has recently applied to work with the corps again this year. “I just love working outside with my hands on a project I know is going to make a difference,” said Melanie. “I want to come back and do it this year.”
Youth corps is traditionally a popular employment opportunity, and has become more so since the economic crisis. Prior to the recession, youth corps received an average of three applications for every one job available; in 2009 and 2010, it received nine applications for every job. For half the participants, youth corps is their first job. Youth corps has also represented an important opportunity for minority and low-income youth. In 2010, 74 percent of corps members were low-income and 30 percent were non-white or Hispanic in Colorado.
The latest funding initiative follows a proud history. GOCO first provided money for the expansion of youth corps in 1996 when there were only five local corps in the state that served 210 young people, most of whom were on the Front Range. The result of that seed funding was the creation of the Colorado Youth Corps Association, a statewide coalition of 10 accredited youth conservation corps that employ 1,800 young people annually.
“Last year, the GOCO board adopted among its top three priorities, the engagement of youth and families in the outdoors,” said GOCO Board Chair Peggy Montaño. “This initiative is a significant investment toward that goal by providing opportunities and jobs for the next generation in taking care of Colorado.”
About Colorado Youth Corps Association
The Colorado Youth Corps Association (CYCA) is a statewide coalition of 10 accredited youth conservation corps that employ and train youth and young adults on land, water and energy conservation projects. Youth corps is a proven strategy for engaging young people in service to their communities and stewardship of their environment while cultivating valuable skills to meet the challenges of the 21st century. For more information about CYCA or the statewide youth corps coalition, visit www.CYCA.org.