2022 Grants Challenge

Creating Equitable, Green Pathways

Idea by TreePeople

COVID-19 employment downturns continue to disproportionately impact underserved populations of LA County at the same time the existing urban forestry workforce is aging out, struggling to cultivate the next generation. The need for a younger, diverse workforce trained to conserve CA’s natural lands and combat wildfires is now. To address these environmental workforce issues, TreePeople is implementing an equity-focused, green pathways program that increases green job opportunities and experiences for youth in underserved communities.


Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

City of El Monte and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Youth Economic Advancement (sponsored by Funding Partner, TBA)

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

San Gabriel Valley

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Pilot or new project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Pathways in environmental sectors such as conservation, public land management, forestry, and arboriculture have historically lacked diversity and inclusion. At the present, we are witnessing an aging workforce in many of these sectors while the demand for these professions is increasing in order to mitigate and adapt to climate change. In portions of San Gabriel Valley, such as El Monte, unemployment approached 21% in 2020 and never fell below 12% until 2021. Economic recovery here has also lagged behind the rest of the state. Similar to other low income communities of color, El Monte also suffers from environmental challenges such as higher rates of local air and water pollution due to surrounding freeway corridors (10 and 605) and industrial centers. TreePeople has the opportunity to leverage existing local and state agency partnerships to help fill the natural resources workforce gap by training diverse youth from underserved communities where jobs and trees are needed most.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

TreePeople will offer a 5-week career pathways exposure program for high school and college-level youth in Summer of 2022. Youth will be hired part-time for a summer session that exposes them and trains them in a number of environmental-related fields. The summer cohort will contain approximately 10 youth. This program will focus on exposing youth to careers through hands-on work and participation in a breadth of projects. All youth will be selected from underserved and/or low-income communities that are experiencing economic recovery slower than the state average. This program will consist of education, training, hands-on work, and job exposure, and will be supervised by TreePeople’s first Workforce Development Manager (to be hired in 2022). Training will be guided by industry best management practices outlined by organizations such as the International Society of Arboriculture. This will be supplemented with earth and urban sciences to provide a holistic understanding of urban environmental systems. As a related field, wildland management curriculum and field training will complement arboriculture training and provide youth with exposure to more career opportunities in natural spaces. Following preliminary training, youth will engage in hands-on tree planting in their communities supervised by TreePeople staff. Finally, communication skills will be incorporated into the training as will the development of soft skills necessary to succeed in the workplace.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Across LA County, TreePeople has witnessed firsthand a desire from youth to participate in urban greening efforts and has seen youth from underserved communities respond to efforts that are using nature-based solutions to bring positive change to their community. TreePeople will translate this interest into opportunity that can serve as a model in other LA communities. Our intended impact and objectives will be to: * Stimulate workforce recovery by directly supporting at least 10 youth from underserved communities as they pursue careers in urban forestry and related fields; * Hire TreePeople’s first Workforce Development Program Manager; * Advance relationships with employers (public and private) to serve as a bridge for youth participants; * Tailor the project to maximize youth exposure to environmental sectors that connect them back to nature and to community; * Diversify the natural resource and wildland management workforce; * Plant and care for trees in the City of El Monte.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

TreePeople has incorporated workforce development and exposure pieces across its urban greening, forestry, and conservation programs for several decades. Over the past two years, TreePeople has doubled-down on these efforts to help youth advance their opportunities for well-paying green jobs. This has included the incorporation of internships, local hire opportunities, exposure to professionals, and robust training. TreePeople will measure impact by quantifying the number of youth program participants. In addition, TreePeople will quantify the outcomes produced by the youth such as number of trees planted, cared for, acres restored, and volunteers engaged. A key component of measuring impact will include gathering feedback and testimonial responses from youth. Verbal feedback in the form of conversations and a formal exit interview will provide insight into how effective the program is addressing workforce exposure, training, and advancement.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 10

Indirect Impact: 100

Describe the specific role of the partner organization(s) in the project, program, or initiative.

Funding from the LA2050 Program will be matched with over $250,000 in public dollars secured by TreePeople for these purposes through the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). In addition to fincial support for the project, CAL FIRE’s regiol urban forester for LA County will serve as a resource, providing technical assistance as needed and recommendations for species selection. Another instrumental partner will be the City of El Monte. The City will work with TreePeople to identify appropriate locations in the City for youth training, community outreach and organizing, and tree planting. Additiolly, TreePeople will collaborate with end of pipeline entities, private and public, to offer exposure and connection to career pathways.