Many people, even long-time members, don’t realize how large the OFAH is. One of the 100 largest employers in Peterborough, we have 50-60 full-time staff covering everything from membership to producing Ontario OUT of DOORS magazine to our great group of fish and wildlife professionals. During the summer, we’ll often add 30-40 summer students with TackleShare, the Invading Species Awareness Program, and the OFAH | Mario Cortellucci Hunting and Fishing Heritage Centre.
This is a pretty big team, and the student employment opportunities we provide are a source of pride for the OFAH and we love seeing our former staff all over the province and beyond as they move into their careers and continue to do great things for conservation. However, for a long time, we had also heard from graduates of biology, conservation, and environmental programs at both the college and university level that they struggled to find employment after leaving school. Many government programs fund returning students, but few help graduates.
At the same time as we were hearing this, several of our fish and wildlife programs had identified a need for short-term staffing above a student’s role, but not long-term enough for a dedicated contract position. Our fish and wildlife biologists had also collected a long list of policy projects they would like to work on, but were never able to get to amongst their day-to-day priorities. Several years ago, all of this coalesced into the idea of developing an internship program for recent graduates looking for an entry-level position, with time being shared across our fish and wildlife programs and policy efforts.
As we were developing the kernel of this idea in 2011, a conversation with our friends at BrokerLink Insurance, a long-time sustaining member of the OFAH, provided an opportunity to partner on what is now the OFAH/BrokerLink Fish and Wildlife Conservation Internship, with each of us providing 50% of the costs for an 18-week spring/summer intern position. The first intern joined us in the summer of 2012, and eight more have since followed – and below you’ll find we’ve launched the hiring process for the tenth.
A few years after we launched the BrokerLink internship, we identified a need for additional staff support in the winter, in particular with the Lake Ontario Atlantic Salmon Restoration Program’s classroom hatchery program, which is particularly busy January through May. Our friends from Fitzsimons Financial Group Inc. stepped up their already significant support of the OFAH to include the OFAH/Fitzsimons Financial Group Fish and Wildlife Conservation Internship, which had its first intern in January 2018. Jonathan N. is our current, and fourth, winter intern, and while COVID-19 is obviously impacting our normal workplan for this time of year, he is helping film pieces for our Atlantic Salmon classroom hatchery online “TV” series, researching drones and deer whistles, and keeping track of COVID-related fishing and hunting information.
The twelve interns we’ve had prior to 2021 have certainly helped the OFAH, and we like to think we’ve helped them. Of those we’ve heard from recently, four went on to do graduate work in biology/conservation, one of which is now a state biologist in the US. Another was working (pre-Covid) on water quality for a municipality, and two work at the OFAH today with the Invading Species Awareness Program (ISAP).
In their wrap-up reports for us at the end of every contract, we hear from the interns how they feel the experience has helped them.
Here are some examples:
“I was excited to work in a position that would expose me to many different conservation programs, species, and techniques. The position did not disappoint!”
“This internship has been an amazing experience for me. It has broadened and improved my fieldwork, communication, and research skills. Making connections with other conservation organizations and individuals has broadened my knowledge of possible career paths, and will help me find future opportunities.”
“This position has been a pivotal moment as I pursue a career in fish and wildlife conservation.”
“I gained experience and knowledge in fisheries management, which I had limited exposure to before this position.”
“As a graduate who was out of school for a few years before gaining employment in the field of biology, I am so thankful for employment opportunities such as this one.”
“The OFAH was an extremely welcoming organization and worked hard to involve me in a variety of experiences. I feel confident leaving my internship with new knowledge and experience in many areas of the conservation field.”
ARE YOU THE NEXT INTERN?
Heading into spring it’s time to hire our next OFAH/Brokerlink Fish and Wildlife Conservation Intern, if you know anyone interested in the opportunity, please direct them to http://www.ofah.org/jobs – the job has been posted for a few weeks already and closes at midnight March 7.
PHOTOS: AN INSIDE LOOK AT BEING AN INTERN