NRPA Launches Workforce Development Community of Practice

By Barbara Kapustin | Posted on May 10, 2024

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Park and recreation agencies in rural locations (populations fewer than 50,000) are invited to apply to NRPA’s Workforce Development Community of Practice (CoP). This dynamic 12-month-long community of practice will provide park and recreation professionals with technical support and peer learning toward workforce development. In a 2021 NRPA survey, only 24 percent of rural agencies offered workforce development programs, while 1 in 5 reported looking to establish workforce development and/or career readiness within the next two years. NRPA is working to support this area of need through the Workforce Development Community of Practice. The Workforce Development CoP is a funded opportunity for rural agencies that currently provide workforce development programming through their out-of-school time (OST) services to youth (ages 14-21). The CoP will allow agencies to connect and learn from peers, problem-solve challenges, and receive assistance from cohort peers and industry experts.  

Park and recreation agencies are one of the largest providers of OST services nationwide. Collectively, the field reaches more than 40 million youth per year through programs, spaces, and services. This reach is not evenly distributed. Currently, fewer rural park and recreation departments offer workforce development programs as compared to urban and suburban agencies. Rural youth experience poorer outcomes related to poverty and unemployment, poor infrastructure, higher rates of chronic disease, restricted access to healthcare, substance use challenges, geographic isolation, and lack of public transportation.  

The Workforce Development Community of Practice is designed to provide park professionals with opportunities for learning, peer-to-peer engagement, and technical assistance around best practices for Workforce Development in OST programming. Participating agencies will leave the CoP with templates, skills, resources, and new ways of thinking to develop and strengthen their workforce development programming. Through an interactive approach, participants in this program will learn from and alongside their peers, industry experts, and NRPA staff. Topics will include how to troubleshoot obstacles to implementing Workforce Development through OST programming and approach best practices from a community-driven lens.  

Since park and recreation professionals have such a far reach for OST programming, there is a tremendous opportunity for park and recreation professionals to strengthen young people through workforce development opportunities.   

In June 2024, 10 rural park and recreation agencies — agencies in locations with populations fewer than 50,000 — will begin on a year-long collaborative journey to harness the skills needed to ask the right questions, anticipate hurdles, and work together with their communities to develop their workforce development and OST programming. To support the agency’s participation in the program, each will receive up to $20,000 to compensate for their time and their collaboration with parks on the implementation of actions learned throughout the program. There is no cost for parks to participate in this program.   

The application period for the NRPA’s Workforce Development Community of Practice program begins May 10 and will close on June 10, 2024. Apply today at this link, or click here for more information, as well as a link to our informational session on May 16, which will be dedicated to answering questions about this opportunity. 


This workforce product was funded by a $2 million grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (grant #23A60YP00002-01-00). This funding provides 100% of the support for this NRPA Workforce Pathways for Youth Initiative. The product was created by the grantee and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Labor. The U.S. Department of Labor makes no guarantees, warranties, or assurances of any kind, express or implied, with respect to such information, including any information on linked sites and including, but not limited to, accuracy of the information or its completeness, timeliness, usefulness, adequacy, continued availability, or ownership. This product is copyrighted by the institution that created it. 

Barbara Kapustin is Resilience Program Manager at NRPA.