Developing Utah’s Public Lands Career Pipeline
For high school and college students, internships are life-changing experiences that create a pathway to admission at desired colleges, a jumpstart for future experiential learning, and an avenue to eventual employment. Designed for a generation motivated by stewardship—internship opportunities at Zion, Cedar Breaks and Pipe Spring are transformational. As one 2018 intern who was recently hired at Zion illustrates: “Working here at the park helped me gain a better understanding of what I wanted to do. I learned that I loved the outdoors and that I could have a career with the Park Service.”
Recognizing that many students in Southern Utah enjoy a multi-generational family connection to the surrounding lands, the three parks created an internship program for local students through partnerships with Southern Utah and Dixie State Universities. For the past 11 years, these internships have grown local talent as students experience a career in public lands near their home. During 2018, the Zion Forever Project funded internships for eleven students. Participants were placed in park management operations that matched their individual interests in areas such as natural resources, youth programs, wilderness, and visitor use management. Recent research shows that participants in this program are finding a voice in the public lands discourse, as five years after completing their internships, nearly 50% of participants are working in professions connected to public lands.
In 2019, park leadership wants to provide opportunity for twenty student interns across the three parks and adjacent public lands. The additional internships will expand opportunity to students with a wide variety of academic majors, pairing them with subject matter experts throughout the greater Zion landscape. Park leadership is anxious to welcome students with interest in technology, business, art, social science, education, and other disciplines who might have previously assumed careers within the public lands arena were out of reach. This program fills an essential need, bridging the gap between student interest at the college level and career development at Zion National Park, Cedar Breaks, and Pipe Spring National Monuments.