(Update: Adding video, more comments)
CORVALLIS, Ore. (KTVZ) -– Oregon State University said Wednesday its new Center for the Outdoor Recreation Economy, with OSU-Cascades as a partner, will advance research and curriculum development, technical skills training and leadership programming for the U.S. outdoor industry.
Based in OSU’s Division of Extension and Engagement, partners in the center are the College of Forestry and OSU-Cascades in Bend.
“With this cross-university partnership, OSU is making a significant commitment to education and research that will help the outdoor recreation economy thrive and contribute to current and future career opportunities and job skills training for people throughout the nation,” said Interim OSU President Becky Johnson, former vice president and leader of the Bend campus.
The center will facilitate industry and academic collaboration and spearhead the development of education, training and research, deepening OSU’s commitment to leveraging the university’s expertise, industry connections and academic programs in natural resources, outdoor products, sustainability, and tourism, recreation and adventure leadership. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, domestic consumer spending on the outdoor industry was estimated at $788 billion in 2019.
The center follows the work of OSU’s Outdoor Recreation Economy Initiative, which was developed in partnership with industry leaders nationally to address workforce development needs.
“The outdoor recreation industry has incredible potential, both as a driver of economic opportunity and as a means of making outdoor activity more welcoming and accessible,” said Lee Davis, executive director of the Center for the Outdoor Recreation Economy. “Right now, the industry is being held back by a growing skills gap and an ad hoc training structure. This center will serve as an inclusive and rallying force for the outdoor recreation industry, for those seeking career opportunities in it, and for everyone who will benefit from more time outside.”
Davis tells NewsChannel 21 their primary focus is on getting students jobs as they head into the workforce.
"From the very beginning, we focused on people getting new and better jobs in the recreation economy," Davis said. "One in 23 jobs in Oregon is in the recreation economy, so it's a much larger subset of the economy than people often realize. And there's not a lot of good educational pathways to help people get those jobs."
Davis said the OSU center will work in close collaboration with the industry, including the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, a national coalition of outdoor recreation trade associations representing over 110,000 outdoor organizations that promote the growth of the outdoor recreation economy and outdoor recreation activities across the country.
“What Oregon State University is doing has been needed for years,” said Jessica Turner, executive director of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “I am excited about the comprehensive, national approach they’re taking to professional and technical skills training. They’re aligning higher education, standards and curriculum development with the industry’s workforce needs and then building training on that foundation.”
A first round of outdoor recreation professional education programs was offered by OSU last summer and fall, and 2021 programs will begin this June.
The Center for the Outdoor Recreation Economy and the Outdoor Recreation Economy Initiative that preceded it are supported by Oregon State’s Impact Studio, a unit in the Office of the Provost that assists teams of faculty, students and staff to develop and launch bold initiatives that advance the university’s strategic goals.