The Impact of Camp Employment on the Workforce Development of Emerging Adults
Keywords:workforce development, camp staff, adolescent employment, emerging adults, and camp employment
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The literature indicates a workforce readiness gap exists for both high school and college graduates. Findings suggest that employment in residential camp settings is one way to encourage positive workforce development. While a large body of literature supports the developmental benefits of camp for youth, fewer studies have investigated the impacts of camp on camp staff. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore the impact of camp employment on the development of workforce-related skills and to identify the elements and processes of camp employment that facilitate or impede this development. Given the deficiencies noted in the readiness of the emerging workforce (Casner-Lotto, Barrington, & Wright, 2006; Lippman, Atlenza, Rivers, & Keith, 2008), it is important to identify contexts and experiences that can promote workforce readiness among emerging adults. Camp appears to provide the types of experiences and benefits that would position it as an effective workforce-development context. While the majority of camp-related research focuses on youth participants, a growing body of literature, including the present study, supports the importance of understanding the impact of camp on camp staff. In this qualitative study, researchers used a focus-group methodology to collect data from 21 individuals who had worked in a variety of camp settings. Study participants described a range of positive impacts associated with camp employment that have direct implications for workforce development, including gains in skills related to interpersonal interactions, communication, problem solving, and leadership. In creating a camp environment conducive to workforce development, special attention should be paid to the factors and processes at camp identified in this study that both hinder and facilitate staff development. Facilitators of positive growth included developing intrinsic motivations for working at camp, being forced out of one’s comfort zone, participating in the supportive camp community, and receiving positive feedback. Constraining elements included long work hours, working under poor management, and personal relationships among staff that reduced focus and engagement. When structured correctly, camp appears to be a prime context for the development of essential workplace skills. Camp administrators can use the information presented in this study to structure the employment experience for their emerging adult staff in ways that will make camp an important stepping stone in their workforce development path.
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