Outdoor Retailer - August 2021 - 25

Feature .01
W
hen they signed up for The
Bridge Project, young professionals
just starting their careers
in the outdoor industry Bridget
Arnudel and Sade Moore thought they were
just attending another online conference of
environmental organizations over Zoom-
but what they got through this innovative new
program, spearheaded by the Greening Youth
Foundation (GYF), was a meaningful career
boost. " I had no idea what to expect, " says
Moore. " I was thinking, professional development
and networking, things like that. I didn't
know that I'd get an actual job out of it! "
In partnership with a variety of different institutions
from across the country, GYF assembled
a group of more than 170 prospective job candidates
for The Bridge Project. Over the course of a
three-day event, 12 organizations, ranging from
the Trust For Public Land to the Montana Wild
and REI, hired 17 people. With the explicit intention
of engaging people of color-individuals
who are disproportionately underrepresented
in the environmental-conservation sector-The
Bridge Project aimed to provide attendees an
opportunity to receive basic skills training and
the personal assistance necessary to navigate the
complicated pathways of hiring.
Though duly qualified with advanced degrees
in communications and broad experience
as interns or limited-term employees,
both Arnudel and Sade Moore faced more than
a few cultural barriers that limited their access
to the outdoor job market. As the first woman
in her family to graduate from college, Arnudel
says she needed a little help to point her in the
right direction. Guided by The Bridge Project's
manager Hannah Malvin, she got good advice
on landing a new job that suits her skill set and
negotiating her salary and benefits.
" Having that coach or that mentor was really
transformational, " she says. " Coming from my
background, I haven't always had someone to
do those kinds of things with me. "
THOUGH MANY OUTDOOR-FACING ORGANIzations
have publicly expressed their desire to
become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive,
most have struggled with exactly how to
make it happen. In both the public and private
sectors, employers can't seem to find a pool
of job applicants that adequately reflects the
population as a whole, which includes a growing
number of people of color. With expertise
in recruiting and training students from historically
Black colleges and universities, tribal
colleges, and Hispanic heritage institutions
of higher learning for entry-level positions at
federal agencies of public land management,
GYF is uniquely situated to assist human resource
managers in hiring new talent. During
The Bridge Project online event, more than 25
organizations were able engage with dozens of
excellent prospects.
" We had employers that were so impressed
that they created positions for these candidates, "
says GYF founder Angleou Ezeilo. " So, I
think we touched on a nerve of something that
was really needed. "
A direct pipeline to job candidates of color
is perhaps just what the outdoor industry has
been looking for. Organizations are beginning
to understand that they need to hire employees
with the lived experience and personal understanding
of the populations they aim to serve
but have too often neglected.
" HAVING THAT COACH OR
THAT MENTOR WAS REALLY
TRANSFORMATIONAL.
COMING FROM MY BACKGROUND,
I HAVEN'T ALWAYS
HAD SOMEONE TO DO THOSE
KINDS OF THINGS WITH ME. "
-BRIDGET ARNUDEL
" My colleagues within the environmental
and climate movements have a long way to go
in terms of representation and inclusiveness.
That's what attracted us to this, " says Jessica
Jewell Lanier, the director of digital communications
at the Water Hub, a division of the environmental
nonprofit Climate Nexus. " We're
hoping to be a model for the larger organization,
a center for justice and equity and inclusion
and hiring practices to make sure that we
increase the visibility of folks of color at the org. "
Lanier hired both Moore and Arnudel
through The Bridge Project to help better
connect with marginalized Black and brown
communities that are most directly impacted
by disparities of access to fresh drinking water.
The participation of Climate Nexus in the program
was encouraged by the organization's desire
to become more diverse internally as well.
" The Bridge Project was a facilitator, " Lanier
says. " It was supportive of both the candidates
and of the hiring managers, educating us and
making us better in our hiring decisions and
our equity within the workplace. "
The initiative also provides a system of support
to help applicants with the cultural awareness
they need beyond the professional and
technical skills to excel on the job. Project team
member Leandra Taylor, who helped to screen
and select the participants, says the program
can help new hires ease some of the anxieties of
an unfamiliar workenvironment.
" I am empowered in The Bridge Project to
create pathways that weren't there for me, " she
says. " And one of those ways is having coaches
and having an opportunity to talk to people that
look like you, that have been where you've been
and have good intentions in supporting you. "
IN ADDITION TO INSPIRING MENTORS AND
noted DEI experts like José Gonzalez and Dr.
Carolyn Finney, The Bridge Project also aims to
work with colleges and universities to provide
the outdoor industry with more clearly defined
national standards of professional expertise.
Too often, entry-level positions are only available
to those with the privilege of having grown
up in a mountain town or with regular exposure
from an early age to hiking trails and ski hills. In
a workplace that has few codified career paths,
it is important to provide aspiring job applicants
with a better understanding of what will
be expected of them in their new positions.
" Things like internships and job-matching
programs and hiring events are really hard to
scale sustainably if we don't have agreement
between education and industry about what
the job titles are and what the competencies are
that are necessary to meet those jobs, " says Lee
Davis, executive director of the Center for the
Outdoor Recreation Economy at Oregon State
University. " That uniformity of standard has
a really strong impact, I think, to building an
inclusive, diverse workforce, because it means
you don't have to live in Vail next to Colorado
Mountain College to work in the ski industry. "
By laying the groundwork for universitybased
training in everything from information
technology and product design to natural
resource management and adventure tourism,
The Bridge Project has the potential to span
the gap between emerging young professionals
and career paths in the outdoor industry.
Another facilitated hiring event is scheduled
for the Fall. O.R.
August 2021 / OUTDOOR RETAILER 25
https://gyfoundation.org/The-Bridge-Project https://gyfoundation.org/The-Bridge-Project

Outdoor Retailer - August 2021

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