Organizational Mission:  Landforce’s mission is to provide green employment opportunities for people with barriers to employment, build personal capacity to overcome existing barriers to long-term employment, and serve as a professional and knowledgeable labor resource to help steward land.

Organizational Information: Landforce (the “Doing Business As” name of the Pittsburgh Conservation Corps) uses the much needed stewardship of public lands as a social and economic equalizer resulting in both gainful employment opportunities as well as widespread community and environmental benefit. Adults with barriers to employment are trained in and carry out land stewardship projects while working with a workforce development manager to establish long-term employment goals and address barriers to employment, improve job search and retention skills, build budget management and banking skills, and connect to potential employment opportunities or further education.

Landforce is a collaborative effort based upon the successful Emerald Trail Corps (ETC), a program of the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC). The ETC, established in 2011, was aimed at training and hiring hard to employ individuals in trail construction and habitat restoration in Emerald View Park.  Over the next 5 years, the Emerald Trail Corps constructed over 13 miles of trails, restored acres of native habitat, and hired and trained 44 individuals, 90% of whom completed their employment with the ETC and 75% of whom transitioned to other employment within three months. As local interest in using the ETC’s services grew, several organizations began discussing how to take the ETC model and expand it across the region.

These six non-profits (Allegheny Land Trust, GTECH Strategies, MWCDC, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board, and UrbanKind) were supported by a planning grant from the Hillman Foundation. We researched 25 organizations across the US and visited four (Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland, and Detroit). Additionally, we examined whether there was a local need. We discovered there are nearly 45,000 vacant lots, and tens of thousands of acres of parks and land trust properties throughout Allegheny County. More than 80% of this land is not maintained, conserved or protected at all.  Additionally, there is great disparity in Pittsburgh’s work sector, often based upon race, ethnicity or background: African American men make up 11.4% of men ages 18 to 64 in Pittsburgh, yet are 5.4% of the region’s adult male workforce; less than half make enough to support a spouse and two children above the poverty level.

As a result of this research and planning phase we received a multi-year grant for $680,000 from the Hillman Foundation to partially support Landforce’s creation and early days. In November 2016 we celebrated both the completion of our first successful season as well as the one year anniversary of our incorporation.  In our first year we created all of the administrative structures, hired 6½ permanent staff, received non-profit status from the IRS, established a Board of Directors, adopted bylaws, completed identity branding and website development, and moved into our office/warehouse space.  In addition, we have successfully achieved our programmatic goals to hire 12 adult Crew Members with barriers to employment, obtained over $100,000 in contracts, provided 183 hours of individualized workforce development coaching, 615 hours of training, built 14,350 feet of trail, maintained a further 30,120 feet of trail and 205,087 square feet of vacant land, worked on multiple green infrastructure and garden bed projects, and restored acres of native woodland.  In addition, 83% of Crew Members completed the six month season with us, and all but two received job offers by the end of the season.