Investing in the next generation

Published 8:23 am Sunday, August 5, 2018

Program for those interested in caretaking

PEDRO — The Wayne National Forest is cultivating its next crop of conservationists through USDA Forest Service Resource Assistants (RA) Program.

The RA program is a rigorous, immersive, paid internship for individuals interested in forest service careers. RAs work under the supervision of forest service staff to complete mission-critical work that demonstrates leadership, critical thinking, and strategic communication.

Through direct training, experience, and exposure, RAs gain the tools to launch their natural and cultural resource careers.

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Kathleen Gabler, a recent graduate from Ohio University, is one of the RAs who have been employed on the Wayne National Forest. “I’ve had the opportunity to assist with groundbreaking work to control and remove an invasive tree species called tree of heaven, or Ailanthus altissima,” she said.

Upon the completion of 960 hours in the program, RAs become eligible to apply for internal jobs that are only open to current federal employees. This helps hiring managers develop the next generation of conservationists and simultaneously evaluate their suitability for future employment with the Forest Service before making a permanent commitment.

“Through collaboration, coaching and mentorship, we are assisting RAs to gain the tools to launch their careers and expand their understanding of our Nation’s natural and cultural resources, “said Lori Swiderski, partnership coordinator for the Forest Service’s Eastern Region. “It enables the Forest to help meet our commitment to excel as a high-performing agency.”

By partnering with various organizations, the Eastern Region of the forest service has 33 RAs serving across the region. On the Wayne National Forest, seven of these RAs are being provided with developmental opportunities, while performing meaningful work. Greening Youth Foundation is one of nine organizations nationally that partners with the Forest Service to assist in implementing the RA program.

“We work with land management agencies to provide internships and create pathways to conservation careers.” said Director of Programs Eboni Preston with the Greening Youth Foundation. “Our organization works with diverse and underserved young people to develop responsible environmental stewards. We build ongoing relationships with individuals to help them transition to the job force after graduation.”

Dan Giannamore was one of the first RAs to be hired on the forest. His work as a member of the Forest Plan Revision Team led to a permanent position.

“The program gave me the experience I needed to meet the qualifications for my position,” he said. “It was a great way to start my career.”

For more information, visit Wayne National Forest’s website at Follow the Wayne National Forest on Twitter @waynenationalfs and Facebook.