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Detroit teenagers aid the environment while gaining traction in difficult job market


To get a job these days you need something a little extra in your resume and 80 Detroit-area students have it. This summer they acquired new skills that will help them succeed in a green-focused world.

Here’s how it worked.

SAs part of the Johnson Controls’ Conservation Leadership Corps (CLC), they spent the summer at Belle Isle Park, Detroit’s River Rouge Park, Eliza Howell Park, the Brightmoor neighborhood and D-Town Farm doing green work. The students participated in projects like outdoor classroom construction, new trail development, green space acreage expansion and planting native trees, grasses, flowers as well as invasive plant species removal and general operations management. If you get a chance, check out their work.

The six-week program was created and sponsored by Johnson Controls in partnership with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and The Greening Detroit. In its sixth year in Detroit, the Conservation Leadership Corps provides students with training to build leadership and professional development skills, a hands-on conservation experience and a personal sense of stewardship in completing environmental projects throughout the city.

Along with the environmental work, the students also gained common work place skills, such as interviews skills, resume writing and personal finance management.  It’s all part of Johnson Control’s plan to “grow the next generation” and give these students a leg up on their future job search.

“Each year our Conservation Leadership Corps helps students develop new skills to succeed personally and professionally,” said Jennifer Mattes, director, global public affairs for Johnson Controls. “This unique program gives students an experience that helps make them more competitive job candidates, while offering first-hand experience on the importance of environmental conservation.”

Student employees from The Greening of Detroit’s Green Corps and CLC worked together on some projects, including the watering and maintenance of trees throughout the city.

“The Greening of Detroit is pleased to partner once again with the CLC because it broadens our ability to impact neighborhoods across our city,” said Rebecca Salminen-Witt, president of The Greening of Detroit. “The collective employment of 200 young people also provides economic benefit and the opportunity to nurture a new squadron of environmental stewards.”

Not just anyone gets in the CLCs program. The 80 students selected were picked over 500 applicants.  The traits used to assess the student candidates were leadership, work ethic, civic engagement, and interest and commitment to the environment.

SAs part of the program Johnson Control employees worked alongside the students on July 31 to help with environmental learning.  Activities that day included planting, developing and maintaining trains, and removing invasive plants.

The students also learned to hone their corporate skills during professional development day at the Johnson Controls’ headquarters in Plymouth.  Here they learned the importance of sustainability, energy efficiency, hybrid battery technology and expectations of tomorrow’s leaders.

In addition, this year the Student Conservation Association piloted a Crew Leader Apprentice program thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan’s Youth and Civic Engagement program.  The program provides new employment opportunities, additional career training and field experience for CLC program alumni who fall between the student member age requirement of 15 to 18 and the required crew leader starting age of 21.  For 2013, five Crew Leader Apprentices were employed through the program.

The SCA also partnered with Legacy Land Conservancy, Six Rivers Land Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, and Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy to put together the Southeast Michigan Conservation Corps.  This is a four-week employment program for eight high school students from Detroit and two adult leaders.  These 10 will work alongside the CLC crews in the field at projects throughout the Detroit region.  The Southeast Michigan Conservation Corps is being supported by a private donor.

These programs sure should give these students a leg up in their future job hunt.

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