This coalition creates new pathways into the green workforce
In January, a new cohort will begin Friends of Trees’ Adult Urban Forestry and Restoration Training Program, a 10-week curriculum and internship designed to increase career opportunities for underrepresented communities in the urban forestry and natural area restoration fields. Many of those participants come to us through Connecting Canopies, which offers a 9-month training in urban forestry and restoration to BIPOC young adults. Their time with Friends of Trees is one piece of that training, focused on a community approach to planting trees.
Connecting Canopies is a coalition formed by the Blueprint Foundation, the Urban Greenspaces Institute (UGI) and The Nature Conservancy with the goal to create a more equitable canopy cover in the Portland metro region and beyond. Their approach is twofold. First they want to address many of the financial and policy barriers that keep many people from access to trees and their benefits. UGI analyzes tree codes and policies, both to open up conversations with government entities and to select project sites based on where trees are most needed.
Second, they want to increase community knowledge and reduce barriers to trees and green infrastructures by providing access into the green workforce for BIPOC communities. Their workforce development program creates real world opportunities for participants by placing them with five training partners over the course of the program.
“When people work in the forestry or restoration field, their skills and knowledge trickle down into their community,” says Theresa Huang, Partnerships & Planning Manager at the Urban Greenspaces Institute. “We’re hoping that this will help the community keep the trees that they have and encourage them to plant more.”
In addition to working with Friends of Trees on community forestry and restoration, these 12 trainees work with the Portland Fruit Tree Project to learn about planting and caring for fruit trees, with Meadowsweet Gardens to learn about landscape design, and with Audubon and Ash Creek Forest Management to learn about habitat restoration.
“Getting into the field is really hard,” Theresa says. To overcome some of those barriers, trainees are paid for their time. Connecting Canopies was started to be community led and center community voices, so that these BIPOC trainees are able to enter a workforce that they were typically left out of.
For Theresa, the partnership with Friends of Trees makes perfect sense. “When you think about community forestry, you think about Friends of Trees,” Theresa says. “They’ve nurtured so many people who have grown to love trees.”
The latest cohort of the Adult Urban Forestry & Restoration Training Program moves into their internships
Providing pathways into the green workforce is one of the ways we can help create the next generation of responsible stewards working in our urban forests. How do we do that? The first step is exposing people to roles they can have in this line of work, and doing it in an authentic way so that people really understand their options.
The Adult Urban Forestry & Restoration Program recruits adults from community-based partner organizations to engage in an urban forestry curriculum and places them in an internship with Friends of Trees or an affiliated partner organization. The program is designed to engage underrepresented communities and address barriers to participation in the field of urban forestry. In an effort to do so, participants are paid for their time both learning and working throughout the program with the hope of creating pathways to actual jobs
The program just finished its ten-week curriculum, with each module featuring a different guest presenter and topic. Diversity of subject matter is crucial. Some things you would certainly expect, like the benefits trees provide to communities, how to plant and care for a tree, and how to identify native plants. But the curriculum goes beyond that to include things like environmental justice and financial literacy.
“Some of the curriculum on arboriculture can be pretty academic,” says EDI & Workforce Training Manager Rudy Roquemore. “It was important that we combine that with more informal and authentic conversations.”
Even though these sessions were held virtually, Rudy was pleased with the networking that happened among participants and presenters.
“The goal was to expose people to roles they could have in this field, to speak freely to folks in the industry, and start building tangible skills and connections,” Rudy says. “I didn’t realize how powerful the connections would be.”
Now, the participants are starting their internships, with 100 hours to be completed over the next few months.
“All of the participants are interested in continuing on to participate in the internship portion of the program,” says Rudy. “That’s a huge success, and we want to do our part and continue to support them.” The internships will be with Friends of Trees, Verde, Treecology, Honl Tree Care, Portland Parks & Recreation, and Vancouver Urban Forestry.
“We can make trees relevant to people’s lives,” Rudy says, “by addressing and eliminating barriers to the green workforce. There is a lot of opportunity to grow this program and make a real impact.” A new cohort is set to begin in January 2023.
Friends of Trees’ partnerships contribute to environmental education for K-12 students; adult job training programs; paid internships connecting underserved communities to the urban forestry field; greening low canopy neighborhoods; and so much more.
“Thank you for letting us come and plant with you, it was a GREAT experience. I learned that planting trees keeps us healthy and alive. It was a great opportunity to learn and also to be outside.” Kara, 4th grade, Friends of Trees-Charles F. Tigard Elementary School partnership
“American children now spend an average of only four to seven minutes per day playing outdoors, compared with over seven hours per day in front of a screen.” (National Recreation and Park Association) That alone justifies our work with more than 2,000 young people in a typical season.
Friends of Trees’ educational programming actively and meaningfully connects youth of all ages with nature. We’re in the classroom with information about the benefits of trees, and we’re outside, actively planting and caring for trees with young people. Our work with high school students includes leadership skill building and job training through paid internships.
“I got so much out of this experience. One of the biggest things was building my confidence and helping me have a voice. When I first started Crew Leading I thought there was no way that older people would actually listen to me when I tried to explain how to do things. But they did! And I made so many connections with people I would have otherwise never talked to.” Angelica, Rosemary Anderson High School/POIC student; Friends of Trees’ youth program participant
We have longstanding partnerships with Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center and The Blueprint Foundation’s Grounding Waters Program through which high school student interns receive stipends for job-training—including leadership opportunities—with Friends of Trees.
Our work with elementary and middle school students includes hands-on, outdoor field work combined with classroom curriculum. As part of our EDI efforts we conduct an EDI training for the teachers we partner with, emphasizing equal access to trees; safe spaces; welcoming & inclusive language; how to respond to problematic language.
Learn more about our partnership with The Blueprint Foundation:
Read about our Adult Workforce Training program here, and learn more here:
Our new EDI & Workforce Training Manager on community relationships
Our Adult Urban Forestry Workforce Training Program is a project with the power to change lives and build community. “It’s one of the more impactful things we’ve done, period,” says Rudy Roquemore, our new EDI & Workforce Training Manager.
Rudy is no stranger to Friends of Trees. He has worked in our Neighborhood Trees program since 2016. Always passionate about issues of equity, diversity and inclusion, he is the perfect fit to step into the role of EDI & Workforce Training Manager.
He brings to the role a philosophy of relationship building that seeks to be more equitable and less transactional. “When we work with an organization, it’s important to make sure we’re aligned in our goals,” Rudy says. “Build trust, then project plan.”
Rudy believes this sort of relationship allows for innovation and growth. We can more readily meet the needs of the organizations we work with, and together, do more thorough work. “The Adult Urban Forestry program has been a tangible way for us to visualize what that pathway can look like,” Rudy says.
The program enrolls adults in a ten-week urban forestry curriculum and places them in a 100-hour internship with Friends of Trees or an affiliated partner organization. The program, which is designed to engage communities underrepresented in the urban forestry and restoration field, empowers participants to attend by paying them for their time, and creates a pipeline to actual jobs.
“We can make trees relevant to people’s lives,” Rudy says, “by addressing and eliminating barriers to the green workforce. There is a lot of opportunity to grow this program and make a real impact.”
Over the years program partners have included Verde, APANO, Wisdom of the Elders, Rosemary Anderson High School-POIC, Black Parent Initiative, and the Blueprint Foundation. These organizations help select 10-15 program participants each year, who begin with classroom curriculum and field work, and proceed to paid internships.
Underserved and BIPOC communities access training & paid internships
As we prepare for the fourth year of offering the Adult Urban Forestry Workforce Training Program there is one thing we know for certain: The community wants this programming. We hear from program participants and partners that this programming is filling a gap through connecting communities underrepresented in the urban forestry and restoration field—primarily communities of color—to training and job opportunities they otherwise would not have.
Over the years program partners have included Verde, APANO, Wisdom of the Elders, Rosemary Anderson High School-POIC, Black Parent Initiative, and the Blueprint Foundation. These organizations help select 10-15 program participants each year, who begin with classroom curriculum and field work, and proceed to paid internships. Read more about the Adult Urban Forestry Workforce Training Program here.
Of course, like everything, COVID forced some changes. What began as a challenge—providing classwork via Zoom—actually turned into a benefit: automatic translation. Which was especially important this year since two program participants, Rogelia and Leticia, speak Spanish. We caught up with Rogelia and Leticia recently, who are both interning with Honl Tree Care, to talk about their experience with this program. Rogelia shares,
“I found out about the program with Friends of Trees from Verde. I was really interested in learning more and meeting more people, so I decided to do it. After the classes, I began to work with Honl Tree Care and it has been such a great experience, I loved getting to work alongside other people and learn how to use new machines. I was able to use the machine that took branches and turned them into mulch. The machines were very new to me—I never knew how the wood chips were made!
“The best part has been learning about new places, new neighborhoods, new parks that I didn’t even know existed, that has been fun. I don’t know exactly what I’ll do next, that is the grand question! I do know that I want to work outside, I love working outside in nature.”
Leticia also appreciated spending time with other people and echoes Rogelia’s praise for their intern hosts, Chad and Isabel at Honl Tree Care. She joined the program because, “I like trees and I wanted to know more about tree care and how trees are planted.”
The Adult Urban Forestry Training Program is possible thanks to funding from the East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District. We are pursuing additional funding to ensure this program continues, and grows! Meanwhile, we look forward to introducing you to the next round of interns this fall (If you or someone you know may be interested, please let us know!)—just in time for tree planting season.
Photo, top: Future arborist at work! View from an intern from the training program