X-Cel Opens First Conservation Corps in Boston

In September 2018, X-Cel Education established the first Conservation Corps in Boston. For more than four decades, conservation corps organizations have been created across the U.S. to offer high-quality education and career training opportunities in the environmental, conservation and agricultural fields. X-Cel’s Conservation Corps will focus on matching young adults from Greater Boston with educational and career opportunities focused on water conservation and wastewater management.  

Through a rigorous application process, X-Cel selected eight young adults, ages 18-29, to enroll in the Conservation Corps for the fall 2018 cycle.   The Corps is managed by longtime X-Cel staff member Aaron Dale. For the first component of the program, Corps members who lack a high school credential participate in X-Cel’s HiSET Prep classes three days a week; those Corps members who already have a high school credential participate in preparation classes for learner’s permit, driver’s license or other certification programs such as wastewater certification three days a week.  During the other two days, all corps members do paid work on various water conservation projects in the Greater Boston area in partnership with environmental organizations such as Charles River Watershed Association, Mass Audubon, City Soil and GreenRoots. Through this process corps members obtain their high school equivalency, receive preparation for water management certification programs, strengthen work-readiness skills, develop leadership skills, gain new knowledge and experience about the environment and water conservation and participate in development and completion of conservation projects that will have a lasting benefit to our environment.  Corps members also participate in workplace site visits to gain exposure to various careers in the water management and environmental space. Professionals from this sector speak to corps members about their careers and offer advice and guidance concerning pursuing water management or environmental careers.

During the first component corps members select a career path in the water management or environmental sector.  During the second component corps members are placed in internships in their chosen career path and enroll in certification education/training for their career.   For example, those that choose wastewater management enroll in classes for the wastewater management certification exam. Upon completion of cycle two internship and passing the certification exam, X-Cel staff members support the corps members in applying for full-time positions in the water utility industry or environmental sector.  The ultimate goal is for corps members to be placed in well-paying full-time careers that will not be outsourced and to increase the number of employees of color and female employees into fields where both females and individuals of color are currently vastly under-represented.

For our first conservation work project, the Boston Conservation Corps partnered with Charles River Watershed Association to conduct benthic macroinvertebrate monitoring (collection and identification of water insects) in order to assess water quality in the Charles River and its tributaries.   The corps members participated in training first, including hands-on demonstration and then conducted their first benthic macroinvertebrate monitoring, shown in these photos, in two locations on their first day. One crew member said, “Wow! Maybe I should think about being an environmental scientist.  It pays really well and is really interesting!”

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