Study: Conservation Corps Service Builds Leadership and Teamwork Skills

LA Conservation Corps, Santa Cruz Channel Islands NP (flickr | Robert Garcia)
With the release of a report from Texas A&M University and the Public Lands Service Coalition, it comes as no surprise that serving in conservation corps could be a critical factor in a participant’s decision to pursue a career in conservation or natural resources.

Conservation corps are national, state and local programs that engage youth and young adults (ages 16–25) in service, training and educational activities. Within the Corps Network, there are 151 service and conservation corps currently operating throughout the U.S. Annually, corps enroll more than 30,000 young people in service (and engage approximately 289,000 community members in volunteer work).

Over a season, participants perform crucial maintenance on America’s public and tribal lands and waters. They also keep tabs on wildlife and ecosystem health in their designated area. Their work, from repairing trails to surveying streams, is incredibly important in keeping our natural heritage alive and well for future generations.

The PLSC study assessed participants from 10 member corps of the Public Lands Service Coalition against a random comparison group. It asked all groups their likelihood to engage in community and conservation efforts, and their attitudes toward public lands and environmental activism.

Results indicated that corps participation was associated with a much greater likelihood to engage in nature-centric activities, such as backpacking or hiking.

Additionally, corps service was associated with significantly increased developmental outcomes, with participants reporting an enhanced ability to work in teams, demonstrate self-responsibility, and take on leadership roles. Volunteerism was also significantly higher, as was interest in pursuing careers or furthering their education in public lands and conservation.

The rationale for asking these types of questions is straightforward. The report states:

“While PLSC members are well positioned to address key national issues (e.g., youth disengagement with nature) and circumstances, the current economic climate makes attempts to secure both federal and private funds tenuous.”

In short, showing off the incredible ability of the corps to prepare an ambitious, diverse set of young people to tackle some of our nation’s biggest obstacles—such as youth unemployment and disconnect from nature—will ensure its very future.

Learn more about the work conservation corps are doing in your home state on the Corps Network website, which is also a great resource for corps job openings around the country.  While you’re at it, check out the Student Conservation Association for more on green job opportunities!