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Employment Services of Weld County

WCYCC Forestry Skills Training

Community Challenge/Problem

Weld County Youth Conservation Corps’ (WCYCC) Chainsaw Program specializes in invasive tree species removal throughout Weld County. Youth entering the AmeriCorps chainsaw program do not have the education needed to effectively and efficiently perform service actions required on service sites. There is a lack of understanding the extent and treatment of invasive plant species in Colorado and in Weld County specifically. In addition, as a youth corps, Weld County’s chainsaw program is comprised of young adults (18-24) who generally have little or no knowledge about how to safely run a chainsaw. Many of the young adults also have little or no prior work experience and have several barriers to employment. Since crew members regularly perform their service in remote locations around Weld County, the crew leader would be the only adequately trained individual to provide emergency care in the event of an emergency. Few crew members have any training regarding First Aid/CPR/AED use to assist in an emergency. Finally, the youth in the AmeriCorps program generally lack the experience to act as a leader in their community and among their peers - at work, school, home, and everyday life. Some of these young adults have never received the instruction or the tools necessary to take charge and act as a good role model to those around them.

Board Solution/Innovation

The Weld County Youth Conservation Corps has partnered with several community organizations to give the youth the education and skills they need to successfully participate in the program and to improve their chance of success once they leave the program. To learn about invasive species, the WCYCC was invited to attend the Tamarisk Coalition Conference in Del Camino. Youth were educated in Riparian Health, Tamarisk and Russian Olive Treatment Techniques, secondary weeds commonly associated with Tamarisk and Russian Olive, re-vegetation techniques for riparian areas, and provided with a field site demonstration. In order to set a clear standard for our agency in regard to safety and training, we have adopted the Federal Government’s training program for wildland fire chainsaw use. Affording young adults with an opportunity to become a certified chainsaw operator, Colorado Fire Camp (CFC) facilitates the intensive training curriculum so that each of the young adults obtains an S-212 FAL3 certification. CFC is in Salida, CO, and requires a four-day commitment staying overnight in CFC’s lodge; the curriculum consists of one and a half days of classroom work and two and a half days of field work. Not only do crew members have limited distractions to effectively learn the ins-and-outs of a chainsaw, but the trip to CFC also encourages team building among the crew. The WCYCC also provided First Aid/CPR/AED training for our AmeriCorps members in order to better prepare the entire crew for a medical emergency in the field. The training they received also transfers over to their ability to act appropriately in the community for certain emergencies. Finally, the WCYCC Chainsaw Crew and Summer Service Crew attended the annual Youth Leadership Forum for the second year in a row. Numerous speakers were present from around the community and the nation. In addition to this, crew members were challenged to develop a community action plan in hopes of receiving a grant to turn their plan into action.

Outcomes & Results

Utilizing CFC training along with rigorous in-house training opportunities has proved to be an effective strategy as it returns multiple benefits to WCYCC’s program and crew members. Youth Corps members received the appropriate education to effectively and efficiently perform service duties related to the chainsaw work that the Corps performs. Members aslo received their First Aid/CPR/AED certification and are now considered an asset in the community and on the crew as they are better prepared to handle emergency medical situations that could possibly save the life of a fellow crew member, friend, family, or other community member. In addition to this, crew members were able to network with a very diverse group of attendees from numerous agencies from around the state of Colorado. These connections are valuable when they look for work after their time with AmeriCorps. In addition, this experience encourages comradery, tolerance, and an increased sense of belonging to a team. As an added benefit, for many of the young adults, this may be their first experience outside of Weld County. This year, WCYCC provided 14 crew members with a unique set of skills that while focused on chainsaw use, transfers to the needs of multiple local industries. Crew members who successfully complete a term of service with WCYCC are more prepared to enter the workforce performing at a higher level than their peers. Finally, crew members gained a foundation upon which to build their leadership skills. Many of the crew members felt that the stories and lessons they learned could be directly applied to their everyday life.

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