- The Oregon Youth Conservation Corps (OYCC) is a youth work program
created by the Oregon Legislature in 1987. The OYCC provides both summer and
year-round employment programs primarily for disadvantaged and at-risk youth.
The legislatively defined purpose of the OYCC is to protect, conserve, and improve
the natural, historical, and cultural resources of the state, and to increase the
education, training, and employment opportunities for participating youth. In
addition, youth are given the opportunity to improve work skills and work-related
social skills, develop the work ethic, and increase employability. The OYCC's
impact on Oregon's resources, such as the improvements made to parks and the
enhancement of public recreation areas, has been well documented. What has not
been methodically studied are the outcomes of OYCC participation on youths' work
skills, social skills, employability, and educational goals.
This study examined participant outcomes for 400 of the over 600 youth
enrolled in OYCC 1996 summer programs. Summer programs operate in nearly all
of Oregon's 36 counties, and programs vary in length from 5 weeks to 10 weeks
duration. Crew sizes vary from 4 to 10 participants, and are led by an adult crew
leader. Pretest surveys were completed by participants and crew leaders at the
beginning of each program. Participants and crew leaders completed posttest surveys
again at the end of each program. Retrospective (post-then pre) pretests were also
Measures were adopted from a Colorado State University evaluation of Youth
Conservation Corps (Johnson, Driver, Ross, & Shikiar, 1982) These measures
assessed changes in work skills, work-related social skills, educational goals, and
potential for future employability. Data were analyzed to determine if outcomes of
OYCC participation varied by program length, residential status, or participants'
risk status. Investigator-designed measures were used to obtain demographic data.
Both the traditional pretest-post test and the retrospective pretest methodologies
revealed significant increases in participants' work competence and skills, work
attitudes and behaviors, and comfort with diversity among co-workers. Increases
were most significant among higher risk youth. Residential programs were
particularly effective. Suggestions for future evaluation development and
implementation are made.