Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Environmental Career Forecasting

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Environmental Career Forecasting

Article excerpt

A conversation with Environmental Workforce Consultant Kevin Doyle

Local park and recreation agencies are positioned to be leaders in the environmental movement. But, given the current economic and political climate, what does the future hold for those about to enter the field and those already working in it? Parks & Recreation magazine recently sat down with Kevin Doyle, a national environmental careers expert, to get his perspective about industry trends and opportunities and the skills park and recreation professionals will need to possess in order to be competitive and to optimize the impact they can have on the communities they serve. Following is an excerpt of that conversation.

Parks & Recreation magazine: What trends in environmental careers should park agencies pay attention to?

Kevin Doyle 2017 is shaping up to be a very interesting year for trends in a wide variety of environmental career sectors, including those who work in occupations related to parks and recreation. Let's start with a trend that everyone will recognize: political disruption. Environmental budget cuts at both the federal and state level have been proposed, and these proposals come on top of previous underinvestments. Even if proposed cuts don't materialize, just the expectation of budget concerns is likely to put a pause on hiring, especially for new full-time workers. In an environment of uncertainty, it seems reasonable to expect park directors to adopt a status quo approach in terms of hiring, except for larger projects that are already funded, or under way.

On the positive side, there are a number of trends that have been growing over several years that should be good for the parks workforce. These are work innovations generating new assignments for existing crews that will require new skills training, and may potentially require new hires as well. One of those trends is the growth of green stormwater infrastructure "GSI" approaches in cities and towns, and the growing realization that park facilities can play a key role in the successful implementation of GSI plans.

Progressive city leaders understand communities pushing for green infrastructure alternatives will achieve results most quickly if they lead by example. This means designing and implementing strategies that use existing public land and right of ways for green infrastructure projects for stormwater - especially parks. We're already seeing this "lead by example" approach in many cities, with an accompanying in the need for appropriately trained public workers, contractors and subcontractors. Bringing together green stormwater infrastructure and park design, installation, maintenance and monitoring will be an important employment and training driver in 2017, and beyond.

On March 27, Jobs for the Future (www.jff.org) released a major report about the employment and training implications of urban green infrastructure. Among other things, JFF notes the large number of urban water utilities - often in collaboration with their parks departments - that are supporting a National Green Infrastructure Certification Program (www.ngicp.org) to institutionalize job training needs for GSI workers.

Another positive that pushes back against the budget cutting narrative is that people love parks. Over and over again, surveys indicate that the American public values their local, state and national parks. Whether they are willing to pay the freight to maintain them is, of course, another matter. But, people in many states are realizing they can no longer postpone some of the backlog in maintenance and, at least a dent in some of that backlog is going to need to be made. …

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