Urban Natural Resources Stewardship

Green jobs training and employment result in an increased sense of accomplishment as well as positive environmental attitudes and behaviors in young adults

[photo:] MillionTreesNYC Training Program Participants at Fall 2008 volunteer planting day at Father Macris Park in Staten Island, New York.  Photo credit: Brian Aucoin, New York City Parks & Recreation DepartmentResearch Issue

The demand for a well-trained green-collar labor force will increase as many cities implement sustainability and green infrastructure plans. Additionally, many green jobs training programs are intended to provide pathways out of poverty for low-skilled workers. Despite the well-documented benefits of nature on individual socio-psychological well-being, scant research has investigated the effects of working professionally in urban natural resources management.

Our Research

In this case study, we analyze the experiences of graduates from a New York City green jobs training program as they transition to full-time employment. The program targets 18-24 year olds previously disconnected from the workforce. Graduates of the program work directly in arboriculture, ecological restoration, landscape design, and horticulture. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with sixteen graduates of the MillionTreesNYC Training Program and their employers approximately 2-3 months after the employees began full time work in entry-level green jobs. A semi-structured interview protocol was used, composed of open-ended questions that fostered a wide-ranging conversation about employees’ work experiences, their outside lives, and the transition from the training program to employment. Our findings reveal the significant challenges facing training program graduates and their supervisors, but also the benefits of urban conservation job training and employment that are potentially transformational for economically disadvantaged young adults. Green job training and employment present real opportunities for intellectual stimulation and an increased sense of accomplishment, due in part to the uniqueness of environmental work. Individuals reported positive environmental attitudes and behaviors as a result of green jobs training and employment.

Expected Outcomes

Our research emphasizes the need for green jobs training programs to include “soft skills” training, computer and workplace communications skills, and supervisor preparation if they are truly to provide a transition to long term employment for those previously disconnected from the workforce. However, our research also shows that green job training and employment presents real opportunities for intellectual stimulation, environmental stewardship, and an increased sense of accomplishment, due in part to the uniqueness of environmental work.

Research Results

Falxa-Raymond, Nancy; Svendsen, Erika; Campbell, Lindsay K. 2013. From job training to green jobs: a case study for a young adult employment program centered on environmental restoration in New York City, USA. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. 12: 287-295.

Research Participants

  • Erika Svendsen, Research Social Scientist, USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station
  • Lindsay Campbell, Research Social Scientist, USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station
  • Nancy Falxa Sonti, Ecologist, USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station
Last Modified: March 9, 2016