Conservation Apprenticeship Academy Frequently Asked Questions

What is Conservation Corps Minnesota?

Conservation Corps Minnesota is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with a mission to engage youth and young adults in service-learning and resource conservation projects throughout the Upper Midwest.

What other programs does Conservation Corps Minnesota operate?

The Corps operates programs for youth, ages 15-18 and young adults, ages 18-25. Crews are based in rural and metro locations. Our field crews complete technical natural resource management projects throughout the state, working year-round to improve habitat on public lands in partnership with nonprofits and state and federal agencies. In addition to field crews, Conservation Corps has crews that engage youth from urban areas in environmental service-learning after school. Some crews complete energy efficiency upgrades in Twin Cities homes. During the summer, AmeriCorps members lead youth from all over the state in conservation projects throughout the Upper Midwest. In addition, the Corps has several individual placements serving at the DNR focused on specialized projects. Visit our website to learn more about these programs.

What is AmeriCorps?

AmeriCorps is a national service program. It is often referred to as a domestic Peace Corps. Each year, AmeriCorps offers 75,000 opportunities for adults of all ages and backgrounds to serve through a network of partnerships with local and national nonprofit groups. AmeriCorps members address critical needs in communities across America.

Through diverse funding sources, including AmeriCorps, Conservation Corps is able to provide more than 350 positions each year, giving young adults the opportunity to make a difference in their community, state and country through conservation and national service.

What is the Conservation Corps jargon?

“Corps member,” “member” and “apprentice” are used interchangeably in Conservation Academy documents and materials. Our young adult corps members are enrolled in AmeriCorps and can also be referred to as AmeriCorps “members.” Our young adult Conservation Academy placements at SWCDs are also referred to as “apprentices.” Apprentice is the most descriptive and accurate of the titles because it best reflects the intended nature of the position, its duration and relation to the primary mentor.

Can an apprentice work on multiple projects?

The service activities in the apprentice’s work plan can span multiple projects with multiple staff members as long as a primary mentor can provide a cohesive experience through regular check-ins and guidance. The primary mentor should also serve as the liaison with Conservation Corps staff. However, the general nature of the work should fit under a marketable position title that represents the key traits and skills an apprentice will develop over the course of the summer.

Can I apply for multiple apprentices?

Multiple apprenticeship requests will be considered, provided that the office can provide multiple apprentices a meaningful service and learning experience and adequate support and supervision.

Can offices share an apprentice?

If offices can identify how the apprentice will receive a strong support system with one primary mentor, joint proposals may be considered.

Does the member have to serve for the entire duration of the summer?

Yes. The apprentice will be enrolled in AmeriCorps, making progress towards receiving an education award (similar to a scholarship). They will enter into a service agreement to complete at least 450 hours of national service and stay actively enrolled in the position from the start date through the agreed upon end date. The apprentice is required to continue through the agreed upon end date, even if they complete the hours requirement prior to that date. As a site partner, you will be responsible for providing service activities within a full-time, 40-hour work week.

Do I need to purchase a computer for an apprentice if we do not have an extra available?

If an apprentice’s service activities are primarily field based and he/she does not need full-time access to a computer in order to complete the functions of the position, purchasing a computer is not necessary. However, at the very least an apprentice does need reliable access to a computer in order to complete timesheets, check email and take part in Conservation Corps correspondence. They should also have reliable access to a phone line. The apprentice must be provided with his/her own desk space in reasonable proximity to the primary mentor.

What work duties can an apprentice NOT do?

The corps member’s projects may not include duties that support general organizational goals such as clerical tasks, janitorial responsibilities and the like, except as it supports the goals of the proposed project. Corps member service activities must not displace paid employees. The member cannot take part in activities that pose a significant safety risk. As national service participants in AmeriCorps, apprentices are subject to prohibited service activities while on the job such as participating in, or endorsing, events or activities that are likely to include advocacy for or against political parties, political platforms, political candidates, proposed legislation or elected officials.

After submitting the application, when will we hear from the Corps if our proposal is selected?

Proposals will be reviewed during the month of January and SWCD offices will be notified of final selections by the last week of January 2015. Site selections will be made by a committee of Conservation Corps staff members with support from the MASWCD executive director.

How will I develop a “work plan” for the corps member?

The service activities outlined in the proposal will be used to develop the apprentice’s work plan. The work plan will be used to measure progress towards training and work accomplishments. Conservation Corps will provide a work plan template once the project proposal has been submitted and the program coordinator will provide support in developing work plans. The work plan will require final approval from the Corps by the first week of March 2015.

What happens if project details change after submitting the proposal?

Funding sources and projects change or fall through. We understand if a proposed project significantly changes after submitting the proposal. If this happens, please inform the program coordinator of work plan modifications and begin to identify alternative service activities if needed.

How much time does the primary mentor need to devote to the apprentice?

This will vary depending on the apprentice’s work plan. Ultimately, the mentor should be able to provide set, weekly check-ins with the apprentice, approve timesheets, provide both hands-on and formal training either directly or indirectly as outlined in the work plan and be available and approachable for work plan guidance. The mentor should be prepared to participate in one site visit with Conservation Corps staff during the summer to review work plan objectives and progress. At the end of the season, the mentor will assist in providing evaluation and work accomplishment data.

Are apprentices insured?

Apprentices receive workers compensation through the State of Minnesota Managed Care Plan. They may also elect basic health insurance coverage through Conservation Corps, which provides basic sickness and accident coverage for program participants. Vision and dental is not provided.

Conservation Corps does not cover apprentices for partner vehicle and equipment use. Apprentices are covered under the SWCD’s MCIT insurance if they are classified as a volunteer, not an intern.

Where will apprentices live?

Apprentices are responsible for securing their own housing. Conservation Corps will be targeting recruitment efforts at colleges and universities near selected placement sites. However, site supervisors are encouraged to provide temporary housing in nearby communities for apprentices needing to relocate.

Who is a typical apprentice?

Corps members are often college age young adults interested in pursuing careers in conservation fields and are drawn to national service as a rewarding avenue to explore options. Apprentices will likely be enrolled in or recently graduated from college.

Can SWCDs recruit locally themselves?

Yes, this is encouraged. SWCD staff can recruit applicants from their region. All applicants will be required to apply through the Conservation Corps website, but can specify on their application if they were referred through specific SWCD staff. SWCD’s can request recruitment materials from the program coordinator. Please note that the Corps will take into consideration when applicants are referred by specific SWCD staff, but that final apprentice selection is made by the Corps.

How are members selected?

Conservation Corps staff members will interview applicants March through May. The Corps conducts reference and background checks on top candidates. Top candidates will be placed with SWCDs by matching the SWCD’s work plan for the apprentice with the applicant’s interest and skills. Selection will also be based on qualities the SWCD indicates as desired traits and abilities in an apprentice. Final apprentice selections will be made by Conservation Corps. Upon hiring notification, apprentices will be encouraged to contact the appropriate SWCD supervisor and/or primary mentor to introduce themselves prior to training and orientation.

Do apprentices receive college credit?

At this time, no formal relationships with colleges exist to award college credit to apprentices. However, corps members have often had success arranging college credit independently with their college advisor and Conservation Corps on a case-by-case basis. Apprentices are encouraged to have their college advisor contact the Conservation Corps program coordinator for more information.

What training will the apprentice receive from Conservation Corps?

Apprentices will take part in a three-day training and orientation at a central location (TBA), May 18-21. This is also an opportunity for apprentices to network, learn about each other and make new contacts across the state.

Trainings will include Red Cross First Aid/CPR, communication and teamwork, facilitated networking, AmeriCorps and Conservation Corps policies and procedures, safety and risk management on the job and a program overview.

What training will the SWCD mentor receive from Conservation Corps?

Prior to the apprentice arriving, SWCD staff will receive an orientation to Conservation Corps policies and procedures. Conservation Corps objectives and expectations for apprentice supervision will be discussed. This will take place over a conference call orientation with all SWCDs. Supervisors will receive a supervisor handbook and all required paperwork to be completed during the corpsmember’s term of service. The program coordinator will be available for ongoing support throughout the summer.