Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Veterans Serving and Protecting Washington's Environment

By Stephanie Jackson, WCC Veteran's & Project Coordinator

Since 2011, the Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) has hired veterans for conservation work throughout Washington. Our first all-veteran, all-star crew was hired through various fund sources, including Department of Natural Resources Jobs Now Act. Since that inaugural crew started, the WCC has expanded veteran positions on all crews. In addition, the WCC offers two brand new all-veteran crews in the Tacoma area for the 2013-2014 service year.

There are some challenges in recruiting veterans for these jobs, the main issue being the minimum wage that conservation corps members are paid. However, WCC’s extensive training and emergency response work generally appeals to veterans and can help us with recruitment.

In addition to these challenges, some employers and co-workers have concerns about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), mainly due to media coverage and concern. What employers need to understand is that PTSD is not something solely related to veterans, nor do all veterans suffer from it. Anyone in their lifetime can be exposed to a traumatizing event that affects them in some way, shape, or form and all employees should be aware of mental health options available to them. The WCC provides education and outreach for all staff to help alleviate these concerns.

Work that crews perform throughout the state includes:
  • Flood control
  • Forest & brush fires 
  • Oil spill clean-up
  • Upgrading and maintaining campgrounds
  • Installing environmental education facilities
  • Constructing or improving recreational trails
  • Building bridges and boardwalks
  • National emergencies
  • Installing native species at riparian and re-vegetation projects
  • Constructing roadway erosion control
  • Participating in salmon recovery projects
  • Establishing in-stream structures and channels

In addition to crew positions, the WCC also created Individual Placements that act as interns for multiple environmental-based organizations throughout the state. These positions typically require a college degree. Work that Individual Placements throughout the state perform includes:
  • Designing restoration projects
  • Creating outreach materials to recruit volunteers for environmental projects and/or inform the public about environmental topics
  • Engaging in environmental research
  • Assisting with monitoring projects

After serving a year within the program, veteran participants leave with on the job experience, an education award provided by AmeriCorps, certifications related to conservation work and a support system that helps them continue their transition from military to civilian life.

No comments: