FFA members can learn valuable skills and prepare for future careers while helping improve U.S. forest land.
Thanks to the U.S. Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), FFA members across the nation can see firsthand what a career in natural and cultural resources might look like.
The YCC is a summer youth employment program that engages young people between the ages of 15 and 18 in meaningful work experiences in national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries from coast to coast. Operated by the National Park Service, the USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management, the YCC offers work opportunities that generally span eight weeks. The USDA Forest Service also offers residential work opportunities for a shorter timeframe.
Although work opportunities vary, many YCC program participants build trails, maintain fences, clean campgrounds, improve wildlife habitats, restore streams and preserve historic buildings. In addition, the YCC program requires participants to engage in service learning and career awareness activities one day per week.
As a result, the YCC exposes teenagers to careers in natural and cultural resources such as conservation, forestry and hydrology, while giving them an opportunity to help conserve forest lands, eradicate invasive species and restore native species.
“We host about 1,500 young people on YCC projects every summer,” says Merlene Mazyck, acting deputy director of the USDA Forest Service, Office of Recreation, Heritage and Volunteer Resources. “The work they do is critical for our ability to improve trails and public access to forest lands.”
Due to the success of the YCC and similar initiatives such as the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC), which offers work opportunities on public lands for young people and adults ages 15 to 30 and veterans up to age 35, the USDA Forest Service invested $13 million in 2017, which was matched with $7 million from partners to fund 4,000 work opportunities. Approximately 20 percent of opportunities funded were YCC jobs, and about 25 percent of all projects funded supported high-priority trail maintenance and improvements.
“Along with doing meaningful work, many YCC and 21CSC program participants who haven’t spent much time outdoors get to experience the diverse recreation activities available on a forest,” Mazyck says. “While they work, they learn, and some of them will undoubtedly become the next generation of natural and cultural resource professionals or develop a lifelong stewardship ethic.”
To apply for or learn more about YCC work opportunities, visit fs.fed.us/working-with-us/opportunities-for-young-people, and visit 21csc.org to find out how you can be a part of 21CSC. Additionally, you can discover more careers in the natural resources industry and related Supervised Agricultural Experience ideas at AgExplorer.com.