Environmental Youth Alliance: Preparing for Job Placement with Urban Agriculture Internships
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia
Contact: Samantha Charlton; 604-801-5841 firstname.lastname@example.org
A successful entrepreneurial gardening program has to rely on more than just effective staff and enthusiastic youth. Having the support of the local community can be an invaluable asset, as can be seen in the success of the Environmental Youth Alliance of British Columbia.
Young people working in Cottonwood
Community Garden, the
EYA Youth Garden
Since 1991, the Environmental Youth Alliance (EYA) has been working towards social and environmental justice in Vancouver, British Columbia. The group has always been youth driven, and has been able to utilize the energy and creativity of Vancouver's youth to make positive and lasting change in the community. EYA has developed a series of programs that are able to empower local youth, including, but not limited to, a Youth Entrepreneurship Program, a Youth Community Asset Mapping project, and Growing Kids Workshops, which educate school children on issues related to food security and urban agriculture. They also have a very successful and well established Urban Agriculture Internship program, which has been recognized by the local community as a valuable asset to the greening of their city.
Youth Urban Agriculture Internship Program
The EYA Urban Agriculture Internship program is coordinated by Samantha Charlton, who has been working with EYA since June 2006. "There is a strong movement in Vancouver for the promotion of local food systems" says Samantha, and "many people contact the EYA because they know we work with these types of issues." One of the ways that EYA meets the community's needs is through its internship program.
Collecting seeds in the
Cottonwood Community Garden
Interns have the opportunity to work with local businesses and non-profit agencies, while at the same time building a valuable set of skills that are important for future job placement, such as team building, group decision making, and time management. The EYA internship program has been in place under various names since 1995, and there about 12 to 24 youth who participate in the program each year. The average age for participants is about 20 years old, and participants are chosen based on need. The internship program is designed to help individuals who face employment barriers, such as educational experience, personal issues, or socio-economic status. The internship program is a chance for people to gain job placement skills while positively impacting the community in which they live.
How the Program Works
In order to be accepted into the program, individuals have to go through a formal application process, which includes a résumé review and at least two face-to-face interviews. The first of these interviews is with EYA staff, and is meant to determine if the person would be a good fit to the program structure and format; the second interview is with a governmental job support/case worker, and is to determine if the individual is legally eligible for the governmentally-funded position. Applicants must be between the ages of 15 and 29, and cannot be in school during any portion of the 6-month internship. Once accepted, the interns are expected to work 30-hour weeks, and earn $8 an hour for participating in the program. The program is divided into three primary stages: skill building/group cohesion, project development, and job search skills and placement.
EYA interns at the Covenant House
During the first stage of the program, participants receive basic training in job skills, and also take time to learn about urban agriculture and to become familiar with the different EYA urban agriculture projects, including food production gardens, rooftop gardens, seed cultivation, and the Means of Production garden (where volunteers and artists grow natural art materials).
During the second stage of the internship, participants start independent or small group projects in some topic related to urban agriculture. Interns make their decisions based on the knowledge they acquired in the first portion of their internship, and Samantha points out that "they are able to choose a project which relates to their own skills and interests," which adds to the value of the experience. Interns may end up working in a community kitchen garden or senior garden, learning about medicinal plants or bee keeping, or developing a new community garden or rooftop garden. Sometimes community members approach EYA to request interns to work on new or undergoing projects. One example of this is a local business owner who recently asked EYA to help with installing a green roof on one of his properties. The interns who work on the project will help in every stage of the process, including researching green roofs, sourcing local materials, developing the roof design, and aiding in the final construction.
During the final stage of their internship, interns conduct a job search with the assistance of EYA staff, and develop resume writing skills and interview skills. The goal of the program is for participants to overcome their barriers to employment, and the statistics prove the strength of the program: 90% of the participants find jobs after completing the program. Samantha notes that "at least 50% [of participants find] jobs in a sector related to the program, such as ecological landscaping, food or herb production, environmental assessment, etc."
Future of the Program
Interns working with Strathcona
Community Garden volunteers to
The 90% job placement rate of the program illustrates the success of the methods developed by EYA staff over the years. In the future, interns will be able to take part in the development of EYA's ambitious Red Barn project, which will be a youth managed and operated farm located in a medium density neighborhood in Vancouver. EYA has been recognized locally, nationally, and internationally for their work in social and environmental justice, and the widely-recognized internship project will continue to be a part of their community outreach strategy.
To learn more about EYA and the Urban Agriculture Internships, visit http://www.eya.ca or http://www.vancouverurbanagriculture.ca, or contact internship coordinator Samantha Charlton at 604-801-5841 or email@example.com.