California Conservation Corps Visits State Capitol

CCC corpsmembers debate budget items in a legislative hearing room.

Last week about a hundred members of the California Conservation Corps and 14 local conservation corps programs filled  the hallways of California's Capitol building in Sacramento.  The occasion was Government Education Day, and the second year that the CCC and local corps programs joined efforts for the annual day.

The corpsmembers had a busy agenda, visiting more than 80 percent of the legislative offices as well as the Governor's office and Natural Resources Agency.  The day was capped off with a budget exercise, with the corpsmembers holding forth in legislative hearing rooms in the seats normally reserved for members of the Senate and Assembly. 

The CCC's participants were the elected leaders of the Corpsmember Advisory Boards at their centers.

Corpsmembers from Conservation Corps North Bay meet Natural Resources Secretary John Laird.

AmeriCorps Members from Civic Works Visit White House, Meet President Obama


(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

On Friday of last week, 12 AmeriCorps members were invited to the White House to talk about National Service with President Obama and other senior officials. Among them were 2 Corpsmembers from Civic Works, Baltimore’s Service Corps. Leonard Chase (seen in the right corner) and Myeasha Taylor, we thank you for representing the Corps movement and National Service!

You can read more about their visit and the short biographies of all 12 AmeriCorps members who attended at by clicking here.

Sally Jewell Confirmed by Senate as Secretary of the Interior

Yesterday the U.S. Senate voted to confirm Sally Jewell as Secretary of the Interior. With a vote tally of 87 to 11, Jewell was easily confirmed (more at The Washington Post).

As we wrote at the time of Jewell’s nomination, “Sally Jewell has been a vocal advocate of Service and Conservation Corps. In 2009, Ms. Jewell testified before the House Committee on Natural Resources in support of the Public Lands Service Corps Act. Sitting on a panel with two former Corpsmembers she said, ‘The young people represented up here and the organizations they represent…  the amount of work that they do is nothing short of amazing.’ Of the Public Lands Service Corps Act, she said, ‘We have a dearth of diversity on our public lands, our public lands are not represented by the people who represent this country, and we have parks, public lands and open spaces that are desperately in need of help, and so this bill represents a trifecta of opportunity to solve this.’”

“We congratulate incoming Secretary Jewell on her appointment, and look forward to working with her and agency staff on a range of projects relevant to youth corps, including the continuing effort to build a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, getting young people and kids outside at a greater frequency, and improving access to our nation’s renowned public lands,” said Mary Ellen Ardouny, President and CEO of The Corps Network.

Jewell is only the 2nd woman to head the Department of the Interior (although Lynn Scarlet, led the agency briefly as an “acting” Secretary). Gail Norton was the first woman to serve in this cabinet-level position from 2001 – 2006. For additional information about Sally Jewell’s background, we recommend this Washington Post profile.

[Video] Outgoing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar Discusses 21st Century Conservation Service Corps in His Final Webchat

Earlier this week, outgoing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recorded his final webchat. Among all that was discussed, he answered a question about how he hopes the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps will be viewed 10 years from now. The conversation occurs at the 28:30 mark of the webchat, which we have cued up below. Check it out!

We thank Secretary Salazar for being such a great supporter of Corps over his years and have enjoyed honoring him as a federal champion this year, and as the inaugural awardee of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Service and Conservation Corps Leadership Award.


How Operation Fresh Start Helps Serve High School Dropouts and Closes the Achievement Gap

Editor's Note: The Cap Times recently interviewed Gregory Markle, Executive Director of Operation Fresh Start. We have republished part of this great Q&A below.

Q&A: Greg Markle helps dropouts get a Fresh Start

Operation Fresh Start, a program located in a building at 1925 Winnebago St. on the east side, was founded in 1970 to help high school dropouts gain education and job skills.

Today, the program has 130 students between the ages of 16-24, as well as a waiting list of about 150. The students in the program split their time between the classroom, where most study with the goal of obtaining a high school equivalency diploma, and a job site, where they work to build low-income housing or on conservation projects through AmeriCorps.

This school year, for the first time, the Madison School District has partnered with the organization to allow certain students in the program to receive full high school diplomas, rather than equivalency diplomas. The former often looks better on a job resume.

Markle, a former alder (shown right), recently organized a forum for Madison School Board candidates to talk to Fresh Start students, who he says represent the faces of the achievement gap. More than anything, he wants the community to understand why it's important that we don't give up on dropouts.

The Capital Times: How is Operation Fresh Start relevant to the discussion of the achievement gap?

Greg Markle: We directly take people who have dropped out or are on the verge of dropping out of high school and turn them into graduates. The impact is measurable, direct and probably the most efficient use of funds to address the achievement gap available.

What are less efficient ways?

Well, I think less measurable. If you're working on cultural competency among kindergarten teachers, for instance. Long-term that might have an effect, hopefully it does, but you're not going to see that direct impact the way that Operation Fresh Start can have that direct impact in the community right now.

How do people get into the program?

They have to demonstrate three things to us: That they want to change where they are educationally; they have to change something about themselves personally — whether it's how they deal with authority, how they time manage, (alcohol or drug) issues, anger management issues. Then they have to come in with an idea of a career goal, that they are with us because they want a career with which they can sustain themselves going forward.

What are the job skills they learn at Fresh Start?

They learn how to act on a job. They learn the importance of showing up on time, how to ask questions of the supervisor, working in a team setting, dressing appropriately for the work done, as well as addressing hardships in a job. When you're trying to smooth mud on drywall, you have to work on how to address difficulties on a job.

They also achieve success and know for the first time what it feels like to have done a job well and to see their accomplishments.

The young people we work with never received the training in those skills and it really makes it difficult for them to succeed in the work world. Employers oftentimes expect people to come with those basic skills, so there's a disconnect.

Continue Reading at The Cap Times



Recommended Reading: "The War at Home: The Struggle for Veterans to Find Jobs”


A very good article was published recently called “The War at Home: The Struggle for Veterans to Find Jobs.” Our partner Veterans Green Jobs is listed as one of the recommended resources available for returning veterans to find employment through programs like Veterans Conservation Corps. Here’s a good segment that shows how the article provides a more comprehensive explanation for why veterans can often struggle upon returning home:

“Military veterans are not taught how to self-promote,” said Lida Citroen, who has a resource on her website specifically devoted to help veterans transition to civilian jobs. “To be successful in service, it is important to put troop and mission ahead of self. Unfortunately, when veterans try to enter the civilian marketplace, they quickly realize they don’t know how to sell themselves to potential employers.”

You can read the full article here.

Powerful Speeches Delivered at YouthBuild's 25th Annual AmeriCorps Conference of Young Leaders

A YouthBuild member shows off his moves at a Talent Show. 

Earlier this week I was very excited to attend a segment of YouthBuild's Conference of Young Leaders. For the uninitiated, YouthBuild is a series of youth development programs that "work to unleash the intelligence and positive energy of low-income youth to rebuild their communities and their lives."

Numerous partners of YouthBuild, including The Corps Network, were invited to watch as nearly 30 Youthbuild members competed for 8 elected positions on Youthbuild's Youth Leadership Council. Candidates gave short 2 minute speeches highlighting their backgrounds, the role YouthBuild had played in improving their lives, and why they wanted to be on the Council. 115 delegates from around the country attend the Conference, and so the audience was filled with supportive peers and mentors. Some YouthBuild members are even part of Service and Conservation Corps where YouthBuild programs also operate. And while the time each candidate had to speak was short, I found that there was an incredible amount of passion, authenticity, and inspirational messages interwoven in what they each had to say.

Here are some of the great quotes that I wrote down among all of the speeches (and my apologies if some of these I recorded with some minor variations! Rapid fire inspiration is sometimes hard to record quickly when spewing forth like a river busting through a dam):

"We want to show this country we aren't losers. We're leaders. We're not menaces. We're ministers."

"You are who you are based upon your actions not how you look."

"This is your chance to make a difference in your life."

"Without Youthbuild there's so much I could be into that's not positive."

"Just because I'm a woman doesn't mean construction jobs are just for men."

"Service means a lot to me and it's a big part of who I am."

"YouthBuild took me out of a dangerous river where I wasn't building bridges for future generations."

"I'm already a member of the Youth Leadership Council even if there isn't an official spot for me."

"I promise to lead myself to the top leaving no one behind."

"I want to be that domino effect where one person helps another and it keeps going."

"One of my biggest dreams is to build my mom's first home from the ground up."

"If the rural [community] doesn't speak up, our problems won't get fixed."

"In this world we are all atoms, full of energy."

"As Frederick Douglas said, 'without struggles comes no progress.'"

"A lot of people say you can't turn a prostitute and drug dealer into a housewive, but here I am... I feel like I committed adultry because I'm married and I'm also in love with YouthBuild."

"No dejes para maniana lo que puedas hacer hoy / Leave not for tommorow what you can finish today."

"Education is a great equalizer."

I express my congratulations to all of the candidates for having the courage to run and tell their deeply personal stories to what was essentially a large room of strangers. I also am glad I did not have to vote, as there were clearly many, many worthy candidates for those 8 spots on the youth council. Thanks also to YouthBuild for the invitation to participate in this inspirational event!

Workforce Investment Act Introduced in U.S. House of Representatives

From the Office of U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa

Washington, D.C.- Today-Congressman Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX-15) along with Congressman John Tierney (D-MA) and ranking member of the Education and the Workforce Committee, U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA) introduced the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The introduction of this bill is an effort to modernize WIA so as to better assist out-of-work Americans, including the long-term unemployed, and to acquire the skills that growing industries need.

"This is a critical time in the United States for American workers and adult learners to have access to the education and job training they need to increase their literacy skills and to acquire good, family sustaining jobs," said U.S. Rep. Hinojosa. "What the Workforce Investment Act does, is it creates a 21st century delivery system for adult education and workforce training that leads to career pathways, increased educational opportunities, civic participation and economic self-sufficiency for our nation's increasingly diverse workforce."

WIA would help workers find jobs and careers through strategic partnerships with in-demand sector employers, community colleges, labor organizations, and non-profits.

Congressman Hinojosa added, "In my district it is especially important that we assist lower-skilled border residents who often lack basic education attainment and English proficiency to access workforce training and educational opportunities that lead to good jobs and careers."

The Democratic substitute streamlines and improves workforce program services. It authorizes funding for President Obama's Community College to Career Fund and expands the role of community colleges in job training. It supports integrated adult education and job training. WIA authorizes new and more targeted investments in adult education and it codifies integrated English literacy and civics education.

"This legislation connects American workers to jobs and careers in high-demand industries and sectors," said U.S. Rep. Hinojosa. "It also supports them in acquiring industry recognized credentials, postsecondary education, employment counseling services and the support services they need to obtain employment."

The Democratic Workforce Investment Act authorizes increased investments in technology and digital literacy, as well as enhances online training and other technological improvements which allow rural residents to receive training in high growth and high demand occupations.

Enacted in 1998, the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) created local workforce investment boards (WIB) made up of community stakeholders who decide on how to respond to local economic needs. However, supporters of workforce training programs agree that improvements to the current system are needed to make the program work better for those looking for a good job, local communities, businesses and taxpayers. The Workforce Investment Act of 2013 would accomplish this by focusing on finding workers jobs and careers through strategic partnerships with in-demand sector employers, community colleges, labor organizations, and non-profits.

Specifically, the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 would:

•        Streamline and Improve Workforce Program Services

•        Improve Accountability and Transparency through Performance Measures and Reporting Across Programs

•        Promote Innovation and Promising Practices

•        Expand the Role of Community Colleges in Job Training

•        Develop a 21st Century Delivery System for Adult Education Literacy and Workplace Skills Services

•        Engage Youth through Multiple Pathways to Success

•        Create Competitive Employment Services and Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities

California Conservation Corps Partners with Cuyamaca College for Green Job Training

From Scoop San Diego

Well known as a leader in all things green, from its sustainable landscaping and energy-efficient buildings to its green-career training programs, Cuyamaca College’s latest venture has youthful members of the California Conservation Corps excited about green jobs.

A pilot program put together by the college’s Continuing Education and Workforce Training Division recently linked the CCC’s San Diego center with San Diego Gas & Electric Co., providing 24 corps members 116 hours of introductory experience and training in a variety of job fields in the sustainability sector: green building retrofitting and performance, energy auditing, home-energy rating and solar photovoltaic installation.

Providing the training were local business owners in the solar panel industry, a construction company safety director, and faculty from Cuyamaca College’s Environmental Health and Safety Technology program.

Financially backed by the state chancellor’s office along with SDG&E, the training program proved so successful, with nearly 100 percent completion, that a new CCC class is being scheduled this spring.

College president Mark J. Zacovic said the program is an example of the college’s progressive philosophy of preparing today’s workforce for tomorrow’s jobs.

“We’re ecstatic over the success of this pilot program, and we’re delighted to continue to offer this class with Workforce Innovations Partnership grant funds from the state,” he said.

Molly Hughes, program manager for the college’s Workforce Innovations Partnership, also known as the Green Ventures Project, praised corps members for sticking with the pilot program through completion.

“The corps members worked their regular jobs helping protect our environment, then came to the college all day Fridays and Saturdays on their own time for three months to learn about sustainability,” she said.

Continue Reading at Scoop San Diego

Patrick Barnes of Limitless Vistas Pens Op-Ed about Gulf Coast Restoration and Job Training for Youth

Republished From from The Times-Picayune

With Restore money, Louisiana should strengthen coast and provide job training: Patrick A. Barnes

From oiled marshes and decreased oyster harvests to rising poverty rates and loss of livelihoods, Louisiana has suffered in many ways from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Soon, we will have a chance to repair and restore both our environment and our economy, as the Restore Act sends billions of dollars in Clean Water Act fines to the Gulf Coast states.

In a number of places across the coast, the debate of how to invest this money has pitted the economy against the environment. But instead of debating false choices, why not aim to pursue both? It's actually a simple proposition: We can create new job and business opportunities by focusing on restoring our coastal and marine ecosystems.

I'm proud to join a diverse group of business leaders from across the Gulf Coast -- from the Florida Panhandle to the coast of Texas -- who agree that we need to strengthen our region's traditional industries and create new opportunities by focusing on repairing our coastal environment. More than 120 companies, operating in more than 800 locations and generating more than $20 billion in annual revenues, delivered a letter to the five Gulf Coast governors to say that a healthy ecosystem is a key to driving private sector job growth and future prosperity and fostering economic mobility.

Louisiana, under the leadership of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), deserves significant credit for connecting the dots between a healthy coastline and a stronger economic and cultural future. The Louisiana Coastal Master Plan, the result of much hard work and the support of the Legislature, will invest the funds from the spill to advance this work. That represents a model for other states along the coast.

Restoring our coastal treasures can help tackle many economic goals, including drawing more visitors, promoting thriving fisheries and making our communities more resilient in the face of future storms and sea level rise. Projects like barrier island restoration, marsh creation or oyster reef construction create a demand for a wide variety of private sector companies in the engineering, construction, transportation and manufacturing sectors.

As the president of a regional engineering firm with offices in New Orleans, I've seen first-hand what Louisiana's commitment to coastal restoration means for this growing industry and for workers. One in 12 construction jobs in Louisiana is tied to coastal restoration, according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission. Studies have found ecosystem restoration projects create between 17 and 36 jobs for every million dollars invested. These jobs run the gamut from coastal engineers and geologists to boat captains, welders and equipment operators.

In the state's master plan, our state's leadership has acknowledged the opportunity in these restoration jobs and expressed support for helping local workers gain the skills necessary to do them. This is the kind of integrated thinking we need. Many communities face significant economic obstacles; the region has suffered a sharp jump in poverty since the 2010 oil spill, and the decimation of the seafood industry has meant a serious loss of livelihoods. As a founder of the nonprofit Limitless Vistas Inc., I've worked for 20 years with disadvantaged and low income youth, giving them the skills necessary to get access to new, good-paying jobs in the environmental field. Many of these jobs do not require a four-year degree and are well suited for short-term applied and on-the-job training opportunities.

Similarly, business leaders across Louisiana and the region who supported this letter believe that our restoration plans could benefit from including efforts to prepare local, low income and disadvantaged workers for these new restoration jobs.

We have a chance to bring industry, communities and training institutions together to identify the necessary skill sets and training programs to prepare our state's workforce to conduct future restoration projects. Investing even a modest portion of Restore Act funds in this way can help address both the economic and environmental challenges and opportunities we face as a state and a region.

Patrick A. Barnes is a professional geologist, president of BFA Environmental and founder of Limitless Vistas Inc., a New Orleans-based nonprofit preparing at-risk youth for environmental jobs.