The Adult Urban Forestry and Restoration Training and Internship program has completed its second year at Friends of Trees. This program, funded by the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, is a workforce development training program for historically underrepresented populations in the environmental field. Friends of Trees believes that everybody should have access to the benefits of trees, and that includes the workforce that takes care of the urban tree canopy and our green spaces.
In this program, participants were recruited from community-based organizations (CBOs) in the East Portland area: APANO, POIC, Verde, Wisdom of the Elders, and the Black Parent Initiative. With a cohort of 20 participants in the fall of 2019, participants engaged in a 10-week paid training program where they learned about different employment opportunities in the urban forestry and restoration fields, while gaining hands-on experience in the field.
Dinner, childcare stipends, transportation assistance, and payments to help reduce barriers were provided to help participants actively and fully engage in the opportunities during the training sessions. All 20 participants completed all 10 training sessions and were eligible to move on to their internships.
After the training sessions are complete, Friends of Trees matches participants with internship host sites where they can complete a paid internship to gain meaningful work experience in a field they’re interested in. In addition to Friends of Trees, intern sites include the Urban Forestry bureaus in Portland and Vancouver; the Backyard Habitat Program; Portland Parks & Recreation; and with local arborists.
In early 2020, we started pairing participants with internship host sites and many started working. However, in March 2020, many internship sites had to close down once quarantine started, and the internships were put on hold, even though many participants were looking forward to continuing work with their internship host sites and getting paid for it to help ease the financial stress the pandemic has brought on many people. While some host sites were able to start up again, under strict social distancing orders, others were not able to and some internships were forced to end early.
At the end of the second year of this program, we had six participants complete their internships. However, these six participants were able to complete multiple iterations of their internships with the host sites (learn more about one example of this below) because we were able to support them with funding that became available due to other internships ending early because of COVID. Because of the work experience some of the interns gained, one of them now has a full-time job in the environmental field.
The end of the internship program was unexpected, however, we tried to support the internships as best we could. As we move into a new reality this upcoming fall, we are moving to virtual training sessions that will be a hybrid of in-person sessions when the weather allows and pre-recorded webinars participants can view. We know that workforce development will be even more necessary as we transition into the fall and winter, and Friends of Trees is committed to supporting our partners and this program in providing an essential service.
Photo above: Program participant Letty Martinez, getting hands-on experience planting trees at the Dharma Rain Center in NE Portland. Letty participated in the program through Pathways to Farming.