NJDEP Creates Youth Summer Program for Careers in Environmentalism


A pilot workforce program from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) aims to develop the next generation of environmental protection, conservation, and stewardship leaders by providing an avenue for young adults from open space-constrained communities to engage with nature work seasonal jobs with the NJ DEP.

This year the program partnered with Groundwork Elizabeth, Rutgers University Camden and Newark’s Ironbound Community Corporation to create a workforce development curriculum for people ages 17 to 24.

This year’s cohort will learn by working across sectors regulated by the NJ DEP — like water quality, air quality, public lands management, and more

The curriculum will provide career education in the environmental protection field and help the young participants develop the skills necessary to pursue those career paths in New Jersey.

“Our hope is that this eight-week program will inspire these young adults to a career in the environmental field,” said Elizabeth Dragon, Assistant Commissioner for Community Investment and Economic Revitalization. “Participants will have the unique opportunity to exposure and engagement in a variety of environmental topics and careers.”

The Youth Inclusion Initiative expands this year to provide training and work opportunities in the additional areas of Human Resources, Geographic Information Systems, water resources, air quality, energy and sustainability, land management, parks, forestry, wildlife, and waste management.

Students began the program on July 5 with a week of orientation classes. They will spend eight weeks learning about the different DEP programs and working on projects until the program closes on August 26.

“After having such an amazing experience in the summer of 2021, we are both excited and honored to have this second opportunity to work with DEP,” said Charles Barlow-Richardson, Director of Programs for the Ironbound Community Corporation. “Our youth are looking forward to another opportunity to learn ways to help ensure the environment is preserved for future generations.”

Groundwork Elizabeth sent 12 participants to this year’s program. Rutgers Camden and the Ironbound Community Corporation each sent 10.

Groundwork Elizabeth is an outgrowth of the Groundwork program founded in England in 1979 to involve the community, public and private sectors in addressing urban community challenges.

The Ironbound Community Corporation, founded in 1969, focuses on addressing unmet needs and service gaps, especially for underserved populations; supports child development and strengthens families; fosters self-esteem, self-sufficiency, and civic participation; and delivers culturally sensitive and linguistically appropriate programs.

Rutgers Camden has a deep connection to the local community through its civic engagement initiatives and programs to build and enhance an inclusive community.

A video about the Youth Inclusion Initiative may be viewed here.

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