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Zoo Apprenticeship Program

The Zoo Apprenticeship Program, or ZAP, is a multi-year paid apprenticeship program for a diverse cohort of youth 15 and older.

Zap youth dab dance pose in front of education center

What’s a ZAP? 

The Zoo Apprenticeship Program, or ZAP, is a multi-year paid apprenticeship program for a diverse cohort of high school-aged youth 15 and older. It includes educational programming, career exploration and connections to nature and wildlife. ZAP supports the exchange of knowledge and wisdom within communities and fosters connections through youth-led zoo experiences, collaborative projects and conservation actions. 

Participants are educators, and every summer they provide free conservation programming to systemically marginalized communities in the Portland metro area through ZAP to Zoo Tours. As paid interns, they have opportunities to learn from zoo professionals and partner organizations. 

Who can be a ZAP? 

Zoo Apprenticeship Participants, or ZAPs, are teenagers hired at the age of 15 to 16 who show an excitement for working with community and learning about wildlife conservation. Each fall, the zoo works with local high schools and Metro-area community-based organizations to recruit potential ZAPs with an emphasis on hiring low-income youth and youth of color. 

Every year, dozens of teens apply for approximately 10 open positions. The ZAP program is flexible but asks that participants work approximately 10 to 15 hours per month during the school year, and approximately 20 hours per week during the summer. 

Applications are now closed. Check back in Fall 2024 for updates.

What do ZAPs do? 

In the first year of the program, ZAPs focus on learning about the zoo, exploring nature and outdoor spaces and leading community tours. They also learn about conservation career opportunities and work with zoo staff to create and implement a project of their choosing. 

In the second year, ZAPs share their project with guests and community. They also mentor and assist the incoming cohort and continue their leadership work. Second-year ZAP participants can be matched with a placement for hands-on learning of a specific field that interests them. Placements are in multiple departments in the zoo, from education to animal care. 

As schedules allow, ZAPs can continue to work in the program for an additional third year. 

For questions or inquiries about the Zoo Apprenticeship Program or ZAP to Zoo Tours, please email 

Gifts to the Oregon Zoo Foundation fund conservation education efforts, such as ZAP, that help wildlife and communities thrive. To make a gift or learn more email, call 503-220-2493 or visit