Through a powerful fusion of hands-on work, professional development, and mentorship, GEM Corps enables crew members to further their education and gain employment
By Annie Warner
During the past few years, local nonprofit GEM Environmental has built a community rooted in STEM education, preservation of public lands, and workforce development. Created in 2017 to serve the community of Prescott, GEM has since grown tremendously and now has programs across Arizona and New Mexico.
After years of working with community partners, government agencies, and students, GEM saw a need within the environmental community for a workforce readiness program. GEM’s team observed many talented students graduating from higher education institutions without the experience and connections needed to secure employment. Thus, GEM Corps was created, in partnership with AmeriCorps and The Corps Network.
GEM Corps offers crew members extensive opportunities to work with community partners on a variety of projects during a 675-hour service term that includes both hands-on fieldwork and professional development.
Generally, crew members serve eight to 10 hours on weekends, restoring and renovating community sites. Throughout the week, crew members work towards professional development certifications such as 30-hour OSHA, Civic Leadership, and Native Plant Identification. In addition to these learning opportunities, crew members receive mentoring and training from field professionals and experienced leaders.
This fusion of hands-on work, professional development, and mentorship enable crew members to continuously develop their skills and explore environmental stewardship in new and meaningful ways.
Despite launching recently—in March 2021—the GEM Corps crew has already made a notable and sustainable impact within the community, having worked with a diverse group of community partners, including the City of Prescott Parks and Recreation Department, Yavapai-Apache Nation Wilderness Program, Prescott Creeks, Highlands Center for Natural History, and Prescott Community Nature Center.
Projects with these stakeholders have included invasive plant removal, trail maintenance, and habitat restoration. This work has not only provided valuable experience for crew members but also exposed them to a variety of networking opportunities and industry experts.
GEM Environmental intentionally created this program to meet the needs of the community by providing nontraditional education and field experience to equip early-career young professionals with what they need to further their education and/or gain employment.
As GEM Corps continues its work, the GEM Environmental team is excited to offer this program to more community members.
Follow GEM Environmental on Instagram @gemenvironmental and Facebook @GEMenvironmental.