WINTER 2023 WORKFORCEDEVELOPMENT EDUCATION • PROGRAMS • INITIATIVES
FEATURES 6 ForestryWorks® Recruiting the Future of Forestry by Stephanie Fuller 9 Talkin’ ’bout My (New) Generations: It’s Time for a New Paradigm about the Workforce by Tom Davidson 12 With Purpose and Practice: Connecting Students and Professionals for Careers in Forestry and Natural Resources by John Freeborn 15 Hands-on Training and Regional Workforce Development are “Gateway” to Success by Scott Reigel and Billy Newman WINTER 2023 WORKFORCEDEVELOPMENT EDUCATION • PROGRAMS • INITIATIVES ON THE COVER: FWTI Director of Training, Ray Clifton, gives Alabama Logging Equipment Operator Training Program students an overview of timber harvesting equipment. (PHOTO COURTESY FORESTRYWORKS®) Winter 2023 Volume LXXIX, Number 1 Magazine Editorial Committee Anne Beals (Chairman), Spotsylvania David E. Anderton Jr., Richmond Justin Barnes, Shipman Carolyn Copenheaver, Blacksburg Matt Dowdy, Louisa Glenda Parrish, Edenton, NC Fred Schatzki, Troy Corydon Swift-Turner, Charlottesville Anitra Webster, Lynchburg Lesha L. Berkel Editor Advertising and Design Ronnie Jacko Advertising Sales Hiakato Draconas Design & Layout For advertising opportunities contact LLM Publications at 503-445-2234 or email@example.com. A unifying voice for Virginia’s forestry community. 3808 AUGUSTA AVENUE RICHMOND, VA 23230 (804) 278-8733 firstname.lastname@example.org VISIT US ONLINE www.vaforestry.org Virginia Forests DEPARTMENTS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S UPDATE Workforce Development from 10,000 Feet, by Corey Connors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 PRESIDENT’S COLUMN A Year of Promise, by Stephanie Grubb . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 VIRGINIA CHAPTER, ASSOCIATION OF CONSULTING FORESTERS In-House Workforce Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 THE LOGROLL The Best Job in America, by Scott Barrett, Ph.D. . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 VIRGINIA FORESTRY EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION UPDATE The Future is Now, by Matt Dowdy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Reaching the Next Generation of Conservationists, by David Fleming . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 BOOK REVIEW Tree Thieves: Crime and Survival in North America’s Woods, by Lyndsie Bourgon, reviewed by Justin Barnes . . . . . . . . . 22 VIRGINIA TREE FARM FOUNDATION Making Lifetime Connections Through Forest Land Ownership, by Laurie Wright . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 TAILGATE TALK Wanted: A Few Good Foresters, by Matt Dowdy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Resource Review . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Virginia Forests magazine is published quarterly by the Virginia Forestry Association, 3808 Augusta Avenue, Richmond, VA 23230-3910. Subscription is by membership in the Association with annual dues ranging upward from a minimum of $65 for individuals. Extra copies at $3.00. Advertising rates upon request. The sole criterion for publication in Virginia Forests is that material be sound and informative. All opinions expressed are those of the individual authors and not necessarily those of Virginia Forests or the Virginia Forestry Association. The Association does not pay for materials used. A cumulative index of Virginia Forests is maintained at VFA headquarters. Copyright © 2023 by the Virginia Forestry Association. ISSN 0740-011X.
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WINTER 2023 3 Workforce development has become quite the buzz phrase. Some use it to descr ibe ou r commun i t y ’ s chron i c issues with attracting employ- ees. Still others think of workforce development as sk i l ls training for individuals that we already employ. In my interactions with employers and associations representing other industries, I can assure you that we are not alone in our challenges in either regard. These challenges have not escaped the attention of our Governor. During the 2023 session of the General Assembly, some groundwork is being laid for a transformational re-thinking of workforce programs across the Commonwealth. Governor Youngkin’s goal is to consolidate Virginia’s 1,500 existing workforce development programs under one state department. According to the Administration, existing workforce programs are spread across 13 agencies and six secretariats, using $485 million in federal and state funding to achieve their individual objectives. Whether this reshaping occurs or has any lasting effect remains to be seen. Previous Governors have also envisioned a more comprehensive approach. But this proposal creates legitimate questions that need to be answered: • How would workforce needs be prioritized among industries? FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Workforce Development from 10,000 Feet UPDATE • As there is no single federal agency that is focused on workforce development, how might these government agencies and political leaders react to directing those resources to a single agency in the Commonwealth? • Closer to our backyard, how would workforce development funding targeted towards the forestry community, and utilized across other southern and southeastern states, be handled? In this edition of the magazine, we are fortunate to hear from Stephanie Fuller, Director of Promotions and Economic Development with the Forest Workforce Training Institute in Alabama. Stephanie’s article, which can be found on page 6, examines the Alabama Forestry Association’s experience with developing ForestryWorks®. Many of you will recall that AFA’s Executive Director Chris Isaacson gave a presentation on their innovative workforce development program at the 2022 Virginia Forestry Summit in Blacksburg. During his presentation, Chris shared that ForestryWorks® was made possible through federal grants administered by USDA. Though Alabama’s program was the genesis of forestry workforce programs and is widely considered best-in-class, other states have utilized similar resources to develop their own efforts. In FY2021, the state of Tennessee received $202,000 from the USDA’s Landscape Scale Restoration program to develop a Forestry Workforce Promotion & Training Program. Similar efforts are underway in Kentucky this year. Arkansas and Mississippi are participating in Corey Connors
4 VIRGINIA FORESTS ForestryWorks® as well, focusing on both recruitment and skills training. Existing industry workforce development programs are not limited to ForestryWorks®. Our neighbors to the immediate south have partnered with other industries in North Carolina on the Be Pro, Be Proud initiative. This program takes custom-designed, military-grade semi-trailers around the six states in which it operates. The trailers are loaded with hands-on simulators, allowing students to interact with a variety of skilled trades. Be Pro’s program also includes a “draft” that strategically pairs qualified students with prospective employers based on mutual interest. Forestry skills are included in North Carolina’s program thanks to the excellent work of my friend and peer Dr. John Hatcher, Executive Director, North Carolina Forestry Association. There is growing interest in developing similar initiatives for our community in Virginia. We stand to benefit tremendously from the experience of those who have gone before us. Like most industry-based efforts, attracting the initial investment may be the easy part. There are challenges in remaining focused when attempting to address the diverse needs of a very diverse community. And with 1,500 other similar initiatives across industries in the Commonwealth, we must consider the most efficient and effective means of generating broad awareness of our efforts. VFA’s Strategic Plan includes the broad objective of equipping members with tools to overcome challenges in an increasingly difficult business climate. Challenges regarding workforce would most certainly qualify. As in other states, it may take some time to establish the framework necessary to deliver helpful tools. We look forward to engaging with those of you who are interested, equipped with the knowledge and experience of our regional partners, to make meaningful progress here in Virginia. Like most industry-based efforts, attracting the initial investment may be the easy part. There are challenges in remaining focused when attempting to address the diverse needs of a very diverse community.
Welcome back from what I hope was a wonderful, healthy holiday season spent doing what you love with the people you love. I love the start of a new year. It comes with so much promise, and I enjoy the chance to reflect on what I learned in the prior year and how I hope to grow and improve in the current year. With this theme in mind, I’d like to share my own self-reflection on the state of our association and our industry as a whole. I believe 2022 will go down as a year of growth for the Virginia Forestry Association, and I see 2023 shaping up as a year of promise. Our accomplishments were many, including: • We were able to return to ‘normal’ operations in a post-COVID world that included in-person meetings and future planning initiatives. We had an incredibly successful Forestry Summit in Blacksburg at Virginia Tech, and I saw a lot of people recommit themselves to the mission of this amazing organization. • We launched and had our first successes with the Advocacy Fund that was supported by new events like the Golf Tournament and Legislative Day on the Hill. I truly believe we now have a seat at the table like never before. In 2023, I want to continue to see us capitalize on that and expand it. • We have exciting changes on the horizon with our volunteer structure that should give more, meaningful opportunities for everyone to use their talents in the organization. Whether you are an emerging or established leader, I truly feel like you can find a place to contribute and develop skills that will be useful in the rest of your lives. • We also are developing new programs and events. We heard you both in the survey and in person and are working to meet your expectations. • We have an incredible office staff who is gelling and ready to continue this growth. Within the forestry industry, in my perspective we are at a turning point. As you will see in this issue, there are significant obstacles with our aging workforce. We have outlined some of the workforce development opportunities that exist in the hopes it will get your creative minds thinking toward the future. As you know from my previous articles, a non-forester can be successful in this space, but they do need appropriate mentoring and training to be successful. This can include getting them involved in trade organizations like ours and leaning into their passion for what our industry stands for. It certainly takes a village to develop a non-forester, but I am proof positive that this group is welcoming and open and up for the challenge! I hope you are as excited as I am for a strong, exciting 2023! I look forward to seeing you in Williamsburg, April 26–28, at the 2023 Virginia Forestry Summit! PRESIDENT’S COLUMN A Year of Promise Stephanie Grubb 3808 Augusta Avenue Richmond, VA 23230-3910 Phone: 804-278-8733 • Fax: 804-278-8774 email@example.com • www.vaforestry.org OFFICERS (2023-2024) President Stephanie Grubb International Paper Pawleys Island Vice President and President Elect Dan Hockenberger Virginia Forest Resources, LLC West Point Treasurer Christina Hager Dominion Energy Richmond Past President Scott Shallenberger WestRock Wirtz Executive Director Corey Connors Richmond DIRECTORS Scott Barrett Virginia Tech Blacksburg Benjamin Cole Cole Timberland Management LLC Appomattox Lavan Dauberman Colonial Farm Credit Mechanicsville Michael Harold Speyside Bourbon Cooperage, Inc. Harrisonburg Chris Harris Pinecrest Timber Co. Prince George John E. Jones III Central VA Land & Timber Montpelior R. Easton Loving Westrock Fork Union H.S. “Mac” McDannald Woodside Farm South Boston Steven Peter South Paw Forest Products, Inc. St. Stephens Church Madison West American Forest Mgmt., Inc. Stony Creek Laurie Wright Wright Forestry LLC Blackridge STAFF Corey Connors, Executive Director Sonnia Montemayor, Deputy Executive Director Anne Taylor, Membership & Communications Coordinator Chris Frost, Operations Assistant The Virginia Forestry Association, chartered in 1943, is a notfor-profit, non-governmental, privately-supported association of forest landowners, wood product industries and businesses, loggers, foresters, forest use groups, and conservation-minded citizens. New board members are elected annually by mail ballot to all VFA members. Any VFA member may be a candidate for the board. WINTER 2023 5
6 VIRGINIA FORESTS OPPORTUNITY JOBS eDUCATION TRAINING STABILITY SKILLS
WINTER 2023 7 EDUCATION Tiny Timber Crew™ – This children’s books series for grades K–3 introduces sustainable forestry, the forestry supply chain, and forestry careers available in a simple but exciting and colorful way. Forest Worker Curriculum – A “Forestry 101” course including textbooks, coursework, and video for use in high school vocational/agriculture classrooms that provides students a basic knowledge of forests, forest management, conservation, forest industry and careers. Maintenance Technician Curriculum – A two-course series including course material and skills-based testing, the curriculum is designed for use in high school vocational/agriculture classrooms. Incorporating classroom instruction, mill visits, and simulators, it provides students basic knowledge and hands-on experience to prepare them for careers in forest products manufacturing operations. Forestry Field Day Events – Tours of manufacturing facilities and working forests provide high school students an opportunity to learn about careers available in the forest industry and to engage with the workers who have chosen these careers. Classroom Visits – ForestryWorks® staff and industry professionals educate students about forestry, the forest industry, and career opportunities. With a national GDP of over $200 billion and annual payroll of over $128 million, the forest industry remains a critical sector of the United States’ economy. However, over the past decade the industry has seen a steep decline of young people entering the workforce, leaving a widening gap in the industry’s labor force as the baby boomer generation continues to exit. There are many reasons fewer young people are entering the industry: • Belief that the industry has a negative impact on the environment. • Distaste for “dirty jobs” associated with manufacturing and logging. • Desire to move away from rural communities where forest industry operations are located. • Well-intended but inaccurate counsel that a college degree is necessary for a well-paying job and successful career. Forest products companies in Alabama, who were struggling with workforce challenges, teamed up with the Alabama Forestry Association (AFA) to form the first and only workforce development organization in the nation focused solely on recruiting, training and retaining workers for the forest industry. The Forest Workforce Training Institute (FWTI) was incorporated in 2018 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit to develop and manage a workforce development initiative for the forest industry. Branded as ForestryWorks®, the initiative was originally piloted in Alabama. Programs within the ForestryWorks® initiative focus on creating a long-term supply of qualified workers for the forest industry. Recognizing that industry employers needed immediate solutions as well as long-term stability in their workforce, ForestryWorks® programs incorporate both a short- and long-term strategy. Recruiting the Future of Forestry By Stephanie Fuller ForestryWorks® develops programs and initiatives that help recruit, train and retain workers for the forest industry that include youth and adult education, career promotion and professional skills development.
8 VIRGINIA FORESTS One of the biggest challenges in recruiting workers today is to break through the overwhelming f lood of information and messaging, and to meet potential workers “where they are.” Unfortunately, the forest industry is not only competing with every other industry for workers, but we are often fighting misconceptions about the nature of forestry jobs or the negative perceptions of our industry. That’s why ForestryWorks® utilizes every tool or approach available to recruit workers into the forestry workforce. Whether it’s a children’s book teaching a six-year-old about prescribed burning or face-to-face conversations with high school seniors about opportunities to pursue a low-cost technical education as a pathway to a well-paid forestry career, early and ongoing education and promotion is critical to building tomorrow’s forest industry workforce. Although developed in Alabama, ForestryWorks® was designed to easily adapt for use wherever forest industry workforce needs exists. Recognizing the differences that exist from state to state, FWTI works with state forestry associations to identify specific needs and resources available, and develop a state-specific strategy. Utilizing the ForestryWorks® franchise model, state associations can choose from a menu of available programs and strategies to implement as many or as few components as needed. Currently, ForestryWorks® is active in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee, and the program is poised to expand into more states in the near future. To learn more about ForestryWorks®, visit www.forestryworks.com. Stephanie Fuller is director of promotions and economic development at ForestryWorks®, located in Montgomery, Alabama. CAREER PROMOTION Career Fairs – ForestryWorks® career kits, including job profiles, are utilized by staff and industry recruiters to promote careers in the forest industry. This early exposure at career events helps middle and high school students understand the wide variety of opportunities available. Marketing Campaign (@forestryworks) – ForestryWorks® conducts a continuous, robust campaign using digital and social media marketing to target multiple audiences ranging from students to adults searching for a new career path. ForestryWorks® Website (www.forestryworks.com) – A video-rich information website provides resources for students, job seekers, educators, parents and employers. Driver Recruitment Campaign – Utilizing digital and social media, the campaign targets long-haul drivers looking for jobs closer to home, matching them with logging companies seeking drivers. Job Board – Hosted on forestryworks.com, the job board provides industry employers a tool to use in their recruiting efforts as well as a place interested students can go to learn more about the employers in their area and the type of jobs they offer. TRAINING Logging Equipment Operator Training – Designed to prepare adults 18-years-old and older for a career in timber harvesting, the program teaches the basics of sustainable forestry, conservation practices, timber harvesting, and safety while providing as much “seat time” as possible to familiarize students with operating equipment. Professional Development Classes – ForestryWorks® provides in-person and online programs to upskill the existing workforce and provide opportunities for industry professionals to meet continuing education requirements. Workforce Development Forum – An annual event conducted by FWTI, the forum provides an opportunity for forest industry human resources professionals to discuss common challenges and learn about resources available for recruiting, training and retaining workers.
WINTER 2023 9 Talkin’ ’bout My (New) Generations It’s Time for a New Paradigm about the Workforce By TomDavidson People try to put us d-down (talkin’ ‘bout my generation) Just because we get around (talkin’ ‘bout my generation) Things they do look awful c-c-cold (talkin’ ‘bout my generation) I hope I die before I get old (talkin’ ‘bout my generation) (Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, and John Entwistle, the Who, 1965) More than a Boomer anthem mocking their older generations, this song is a timeless example of how every generation looks and acts differently than their predecessors, eventually leading to workplace discord and questions about how to manage the next generation. My WWII-generation Dad thought my long hair “looked prettier” than the girls’ in my high school and warned that they’d be “too jealous” to date me! As a Boomer manager, I grinded my teeth about the next generation’s work ethic, and today, my Gen-X niece rolls her eyes at what her Millennial employees expect in terms of benefits and time off. And the beat goes on (Sony & Cher, 1967). Making matters truly worse, while the forestry and forest products sector might have been considered essential during the pandemic, we were not immune from any of the other sweeping changes before, during and after the pandemic such as these: an accelerated grey tsunami (i.e., boomer retirement), stay-at-home unemployment subsidies, historically low labor participation rates, the great resignation,
10 VIRGINIA FORESTS remote working, shortages of qualified candidates, free-agent entrepreneurship, supply-chain chaos, and inflation. These current events have exasperated the problem exponentially and made simple generational irritations seem quaint and nostalgic by comparison. Nevertheless, working with the newest generations of employees starts with a basic understanding and respect for their differences, and how they came to be. By and large, generations are cohort groups of people born in roughly the same timespan where the people in those groups have shared experiences at an early age. It is these shared early life experiences (including upbringing) that shape commonly held values and preferences, and without significant emotional events, these values and preferences tend to last a lifetime for each generation. People seem to easily agree on the definition, shared values, and key behaviors of the World War II generation because the events that shaped that generation were specific, dramatic, and largely universal across populations. After that cohort group, the generational taxonomy becomes less clear as to which generation is which, between what dates, with what behaviors, and for what reasons. Just Google “generational differences,” and you will see thousands of articles, books, charts, and taxonomies that are frequently updated, often overlapping, and sometimes contradictory, making how-to advice for managing each generation very difficult to prescribe. Nevertheless, highlighted on this page is a brief summary of a meta-analysis from my 20-year speaking topic, Boomers, Geeks, and Geezers. However they are sliced, diced, and labeled, there are definite (albeit less universal) differences between the generations, but there is one overarching pattern in the last three that is highly relevant to managing and leading the newest generations in the workforce. It is this: the workforce of today resembles volunteers, and thinking of them that way will help managers and leaders attract them, keep them, and get the most in return. Here are some ways that today’s workforce resembles true volunteers: 1. They don’t want to waste their time. 2. They don’t have to work for you; they have many options. 3. They don’t have to do what you tell them; they know they can leave and land elsewhere. 4. They don’t expect to work for you for long. 5. They stay if they keep getting what they individually want out of the job. 6. They will stagnate very quickly if they stop gaining new skills and resumé builders. 7. They will constantly be comparing your job to other options. 8. They expect gratitude for spending their time with you. Your understandable objection to all of this is likely to be that your employees are not really volunteers at all, because they are paid and sometimes paid very well to be there, even with sometimes unprecedented benefits and rewards. OK Boomer, here is the deal. You must see this as their choice to be there and their choice about how much effort to volunteer The Greatest Generation (1900–1924) tends to prefer frugality, authority, procedure following, self-sacrifice, civic duty, and no-nonsense workplaces. The Silent Generation (1925–1945) tends to prefer security, conformity, order, nuclear family, and secure work environments that foster a lifetime of loyalty. Baby Boomers (1946–1961) tend to rock the boat, seek self-actualization and personal growth, live-to-work, buy-now-pay-later, change life partners, and get ahead. Generation X (1962–1981) tends to mistrust institutions, keep their options open, collect skills, job hop, and work to have a life on their own terms. Generation Y or Millennials (1982–1994) tend to prefer working in groups and teams, share leadership, expect rapid advancement, see pervasive diversity, and integrate work and life. Generation Z (1995–2012) tends to seek meaningful work, espouse social responsibility, live endemically online, search for recognition, and develop their personal brands.
WINTER 2023 11 while they are there. How much effort they volunteer is not just on them; it’s also on you as their employer. Pick any work team, even the staff at your local diner. Everyone on that team and most regular customers can tell who on that team puts forth the most effort. They stand out because they work harder or better than the others. Why? Because— for some unique reasons—they want to. They are volunteering more effort even though they are paid the same as their colleagues. Just think about where, when, and how you volunteer your time and effort. Make a list of your volunteer jobs, why you do them, and why you give more or less effort than you might. I think you’ll find that your choices are very personal and unique to you, especially when you volunteer your time as a leader in those groups where you get nothing more tangible but still expend mountains more time and effort. Leaders of true volunteers know that volunteers do things for their own reasons. The same is true with today’s workforce. The newest generations in today’s workforce are as capable as any other and in many ways more so, but like any other generation, they have different values (i.e., what’s important to them). As a result, you can’t change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust your sails. This shift puts the onus on us to change enough to earn new workforce’s participation in our workplaces and bring forth the effort that is ultimately theirs to give—voluntarily. Tom Davidson, CSP, PCC, SPHR is a forester and leadership expert who has coached hundreds of new managers, emerging leaders, and senior executives in the private and public sector. He earned BS degrees in forestry and agricultural economics from North Carolina State University, an MBA from the University of Richmond, and an MS in organization development from The American University and NTL Institute in Washington, DC. Tom is the author of The 8 Greatest Mistakes New Managers Make: Surviving Your Transition to a Leadership Position. As founder of LeadershipNature, he works with a wide variety of natural resource agencies, companies, non-profits and associations. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 804-339-4653. Fit. No matter what their experience, certifications, and degrees, you are going to have to train new employees on the skills and practices unique to your organization anyway, so hire for fit and train for skills. WIIFM. Beyond the paycheck, the new workforce is looking for “What’s in it for me,” which requires you to find and address these factors for each employee. For example, they might want a particular kind of flexible schedule, certain opportunities for leadership, personal mentoring, or support for participating in their professional associations. Choice. When people have options about what they do, how they do it, and what they get, their voluntary effort naturally increases because their preferences are respected. Offering benefit options and giving choices about how a task gets done are good examples. Involvement. When people are involved in solving problems and making the plans that they will have to execute, their discretionary effort goes up again. This could be involvement at the front end or as the project unfolds. Find ways to get employee fingerprints on the task. Autonomy. Like most factors, the desire for personal autonomy and the willingness to take initiative varies by individual personality, but the more you can free employees to accomplish clear goals and tasks on their own, the more discretionary effort you will earn. Recognition. While people still prefer various kinds of thanks and recognition, research indicates that the new workforce responds favorably to a higher ratio of positive to critical feedback than in the past, the ratio increasing from 3:1 to 5:1 in the last few years. Personal Growth. Your best employees will be active learners, those seeking to build their skills, take on stretch assignments, and achieve more and more of their personal potential. If you don’t give them that opportunity, your best employees will seek it elsewhere. Hiring techniques, pay, and benefits are a Rubik’s Cube of their own for our industry and others (see Fortuna, N., December 2022, “Who Wants a Job?” The Consultant Magazine, 2023 Annual Journal, pp. 16-20). For the generational secret sauce on top of those factors, here are some keys for how to attract and retain the paid-volunteer workforce by doing what’s important for them:
12 VIRGINIA FORESTS How are we successful in a career? Does success happen merely through good luck or happenstance, or is planning important? How can we find purpose, set goals, and plan and execute sequentially to move toward better careers? Let’s consider the goal of connecting students with professionals so that they can learn about—and eventually gain employment in—careers in natural resources. Within the College of Natural Resources and Environment (CNRE) at Virginia Tech, we strive to work towards this goal with purpose. Faculty and staff utilize best practices to create opportunities for students to engage with our industry and agency partners, building career readiness in forestry to fisheries industries and everything in between. In order to accomplish those connections, what does our plan look like? What practices do we utilize to reach our goal? And, most importantly, why do these connections matter? At CNRE, we start by looking at the data. In 2021, employed Virginia Tech graduates reported that the top three ways they engaged with the employer that hired them after graduation included: 1. Career fair events 2. Networking opportunities 3. Previous volunteer or work experience with employers EXPLORING AND LEARNING AT CAREER FAIRS Utilizing a broad approach, Virginia Tech CNRE offers career fair events to our students each spring and fall, attracting an average of 40 natural resource-based employers, as well as 400 students who want to learn about careers, employers, and opportunities. In conjunction with each career fair, we host an evening networking event specifically designed to build student confidence, while allowing participating employers to offer feedback in a relaxed environment. Students practice their introductions, known as elevator pitches, prepare resumés, and participate in speed networking, which consists of rotating students from table to table to talk with multiple employers. PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE IN THE FIELD Next, we focus on work-related or experiential opportunities. Virginia Tech data shows that 76 percent of 2021 graduates engaged in career-related work as an undergraduate (84 percent of CNRE graduates). This includes volunteer roles, part-time and full-time positions, internships, and undergraduate research opportunities. Looking specifically at internships, the map on page 13 (created by Anna Klewicki, CNRE) shows where our students interned in the summer of 2022. To support these types of opportunities, we engage with employers regularly to discuss how to design and manage WithPurposeandPractice: Connecting Students and Professionals for Careers in Forestry and Natural Resources By John Freeborn
WINTER 2023 13 successful internships for students, while offering recommendations on where to post those opportunities for student visibility. Similarly, three times a month, we compile and share opportunities for students in an email that showcases internships, as well as full- and part-time opportunities. Nationally, over 60 percent of undergraduates complete an internship during college (National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2019). Following the internship, a full 70 percent of these student interns receive a full-time employment offer from the same employer. This data tells us that about one-third to one-half of students don’t even have to enter the job market after they graduate to gain employment. From an employer perspective, this reinforces the value of an active and effective internship program. Interns who convert to full-time employees with the same employer also exhibit higher one- and five-year retention rates with the employer. OPENING DOORS ANDMAKING CONNECTIONS Finally, in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, we consider other ways to help students engage with professionals while learning about career opportunities. These include introductions to alumni or industry partners, job shadowing opportunities, and employer engagement through student organizations, panel discussions, lunch-and-learn opportunities, full-day visits, and classroom presentations. These panel discussions and evening careerready seminars cover a range of practical topics, such as resumé review, how to make a good impression, building professional relationships, following your passion, and how to be a leader at any level. Within any 12-month span, more than 50 percent of our students engaged in at least one networking or careerrelated event. With an overarching goal of connecting our Students in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment participate in career fairs that connect them with potential employers. Map of locations for CNRE 2022 student internships.
14 VIRGINIA FORESTS students with professionals in the natural resource industry, we continue to be purposeful in employing best practices in all of our efforts to connect students to meaningful careers. Our efforts represent a collaboration between students, employers, faculty, and staff throughout CNRE. If you have not engaged with us yet, please reach out to me anytime at email@example.com to connect with our college and our students. John Freeborn is Director of Employer Relations at Virginia Tech where he works to link the forestry and forest products sector with Virginia Tech, community colleges, and high school students, fostering awareness of employment needs and opportunities in the sector. He graduated from Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences with a bachelor’s (’98) and master’s (’00) in crop and soil environmental science. John can be contacted at 540-231-1138 or firstname.lastname@example.org. In 2022, Alumni from Virginia Tech and the College of Natural Resources and Environment gathered to connect with students and talk about careers in forestry and natural resources.
WINTER 2023 15 Hands-On Training and Regional Workforce Development are “Gateway” to Success Located in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, Mountain Gateway Community College (MGCC) provides unmatched forestry training. Small class sizes provide individualized attention and hands-on instruction from trained professionals. Our graduates become field-ready forest resource technicians prepared for all forest management and arboriculture career sectors. For over 50 years, MGCC has prepared students to work in the forest management, land surveying, sawmill operations, timber harvesting, urban forestry, wildland firefighting, wildlife management, and more. Our alumni can be found across the U.S. and around the world making a difference in the health and management of our valuable natural resources. MGCC students can earn an associate’s degree in Applied Science in Forest Management Technology or AAS in Forest Management Technology with a specialization in Arboriculture & Community Forestry. These degrees also include several industry- and government-recognized credentials. Career studies certificates in Wilderness Emergency Management are also offered at the college. In addition to its degree and certificate programs, MGCC leads the regional Appalachian Hardwood Training Initiative (AHTI), a workforce development program funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to develop educational and training opportunities to close skills gaps in the forest products industry across the ARC region. Based on an industry survey conducted in 2020, AHTI aims to improve the industry over three years by increasing employer engagement through workforce development partnerships, developing industry-focused curricula, growing industry attractiveness jobseekers, and serving up to 950 individuals through 1,800 enrollments in initial and follow-on training. By Scott Reigel and Billy Newman “All of the embedded credentials and real-world education is what gave me the lead over other applicants for this full-time position with Weyerhaeuser.” – Adam Tygrett, ’18
16 VIRGINIA FORESTS Offerings developed will be accessible and affordable to new and incumbent employees, as well as those who wish to prepare for new employment opportunities within the industry. MGCC leads the initiative in consortium with Big Sandy Community and Technical College in eastern Kentucky and Glenville State University in West Virginia. AHTI training programs are designed to deliver high impact through short workshops to improve skills quickly. Focused instruction is provided for a wide area of needs and includes topics such as log and lumber grading, mill operation, safety, general and industrial maintenance, truck driving (CDL A and B), equipment training, welding, and management/supervision among many others. Topics are typically customizable, and they are intended to fit the specific needs of the employer. Courses are provided centrally at the participating institutions in Clifton Forge, Va., Prestonsburg, Ky., and Glenville, W.Va., and in many cases, they may be mobilized to meet distant needs. Depending on the training content, online delivery is also available. Recent AHTI successes include preparing drivers for their CDL Class B exam with Entry Level Driver Training (online) and Behind- the -Wheel Training, Railroad Tie Grading, OSHA for General Industry, and others. Upcoming opportunities include Basic Welding, a series in electrical troubleshooting that focuses on motors and PLCs, and leadership and supervision training in partnership with Tom Davidson, LeadershipNature. Mountain Gateway Community College is the only fully accredited two-year forestry training program in Virginia. Our Forest Management Technology program is accredited by the Society of American Foresters. For more information, visit www.mgcc.edu. For more AHTI information or to discuss specific training needs, contact: Davis Shofshtahl AHTI Workforce Coach, Apprenticeship Coordinator, Trades Program Mgr. email@example.com (540) 863-2920 For more information on the degree and certificate offerings, contact: R. Scott Reigel Forest Management Technology firstname.lastname@example.org (540) 863-2894 Billy Newman, CF, M.B.A. Forest Management Technology email@example.com (540) 863-2891 “Beginning a career change in my early thirties was a tough decision to make, but starting it with the forestry program at Mountain Gateway Community College turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. The program and the professors excel in preparing you for the forestry and urban forestry workforce. The professors go above and beyond in working to get you the education, experience and credentials needed to have immediate impact in the industry. I had a job with a national tree care company immediately after graduation. Enroll, you won’t regret it!!” - Alex Burton, ’22
WINTER 2023 17 Photo by Zoë Sumrall How can someone that works for himself, with no employees, write anything meaningful about workforce development issues? In fact, many consulting foresters enjoy the solitude and freedom of this sector of the timber industry. All we have to worry about is finding enough work to keep busy. Simple enough. There comes a point in life when we realize that we don’t want to work forever and need to start planning for someone else to carry the torch. This is something that I have started to wrestle with. Suddenly, I have “workforce development issues.” Many of the sawmillers, landowners, loggers, foresters, and farmers who read this magazine are in the same situation. There are successful multigenerational businesses and landowners in Virginia that can be a model for our own operations. These businesses and landowners have well-thought-out plans behind them (written or not) with a strong desire for the next generation to succeed. A common path to success seems to be getting the next generation interested early on. This looks to be a balancing act. Being too forceful could push the person away from pursuing a forestry career, the family business, or forest land ownership. On the other hand, having the next generation work outside of the family business for a time could be valuable. If anyone has a foolproof plan, please let us all know. There are numerous ACF and VFA members that are second generation, or more. One of the most important things we can do is to keep it going. —The Executive Committee of the Virginia Chapter ACF VIRGINIA CHAPTER Association of Consulting Foresters In-House Workforce Development
18 VIRGINIA FORESTS I recently read an article from the Washington Post that examined data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics related to job satisfaction. This survey relied on selfreported data from thousands of people that rated their feelings of “Happiness, Meaning, and Stress” based on what the people were doing at a given point in time and what their feelings were about those job activities. Out of 18 different job category groups, the job category grouping of “Agriculture, Logging, and Forestry” came out at the top of the list for most happiness, most meaning, and least stress. This data also showed strong connections between happiness and activities that take place outdoors. If you are interested in reading the details of that study you can find more information in the article at https://www.washingtonpost. com/business/2023/01/06/happiest-jobs-on-earth/. It is also interesting to note that while this study finds these jobs to be some of the happiest and most fulfilling in the country, a completely different study simultaneously highlights the fact that logging is one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. It may seem surprising to many that a dangerous job can also bring happiness, meaning, and be low stress. This study left me with two thoughts. My first thought was, I agree! I think that these are some of the best and most rewarding jobs that are out there, and I know that many others would agree with me as well. Second, if these are the best jobs that provide people with the most happiness, most meaning, and least stress, then why is it still a challenge to find employees in this field? I can certainly agree with this study that shows that forestry, logging, and agriculture are among the best jobs in the country. Jobs that involve working outdoors and in professions that are producing something from the land tend to be very rewarding to certain types of people that are drawn to the profession. For those that stick with it, it can become more than a job; it becomes a way of life and part of their identity. They are a logger. The long hours and difficult and often dangerous work in cold, heat, mud, dust, rain, snow, and other environmental factors are all just part of the job, part of who they are. Because of this, many loggers will also endure the aspects of the job that they may not like as much, such as dealing with challenging business situations when markets, equipment, and fuel costs are not stacked in their favor. Some would wonder why they keep doing it when it becomes so challenging. It’s because it’s who they are, and it’s what they do. They are loggers. And despite it all, as this study data has shown, it is a rewarding and satisfying job, and we should all be thankful they are willing to deal with the challenges and make this industry work. Why is it challenging to find employees for one of the best jobs in America? That is a complicated problem, and I am pretty sure I don’t have all the answers. Labor challenges in logging may relate to changes in overall society, culture, and changing demographics that affect many industries. Fewer people in general live in rural areas and are exposed to outdoor work and jobs that involve producing products from the land. There are generational changes in the workforce, along with changes in work ethic and expectations for jobs. As this industry works to recruit new employees it might be helpful to emphasize the benefits for those that enjoy working outdoors, including increased happiness, a sense of doing meaningful work, and less stress than other jobs. For those that are drawn to this industry and stay long enough for it to become part of who they are, it can be a great and rewarding career. There are still plenty of challenges to work on, but it’s nice to see some recognition that it really is one of the best jobs in the country. The Best Job in America THE LOGROLL Notes & News for Loggers By Scott Barrett, Ph.D. Extension Specialist – Forest Operations Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation
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20 VIRGINIA FORESTS Virginia Forestry Educational Foundation Update The Future is Now By Matt Dowdy, VFEF Board of Directors The mission of the Virginia Forestry Educational Foundation is to financially support statewide youth education promoting sustainable forests for the environmental, social, and economic benefit of all Virginians. There is an urgent need for investment into the future workforce in Virginia’s forest industry. Quite simply we need to make investments to ensure that we have qualified, future workers in all aspects of our industry. We need boots on the ground. We need workers―loggers, truck drivers, mill employees and foresters to get the job done. What we need from you is financial investment in VFEF. Contributions ensure steady funding that help us promote and grow our mission. Much like you invest in your forest by planting seedlings, we need you to invest in VFEF to help us regenerate the next workforce. We are at a crossroads. We can see the future need, and we must act today. We need you to volunteer your time and apply for new grant opportunities. VFEF currently funds scholarships for students to study forestry at Virginia Tech and Mountain Gateway Community College, two different institutions that offer a variety of programs in forestry. VFEF also supports Project Learning Tree and summer camp experiences, like the Virginia Dept. of Forestry’s Camp Woods and Wildlife. These are all great programs, but it’s not enough. We are looking for new ideas to help expand our reach and get today’s youth interested in careers in Virginia’s forest industry. A college education is a great thing, but not every kid needs to go to college. There are plenty of great job opportunities in our industry for anyone interested in forestry and natural resources. Some ideas that you could help develop include student mentorships, a forestry career camp or field day, speaking to a high school class, sponsoring field trips, or inviting students to your logging job or sawmill. We’ve got to let today’s youth know what we do, and that there are good jobs waiting for them when they graduate in all aspects of our industry. Many of our jobs are in rural areas. Let’s help keep those kids at home with well-paying jobs. As the recent pandemic has shown us, a supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Trees in the forest only become commercially valuable once they are harvested, hauled to the mill, and turned into wood products. Without truck drivers, loggers, foresters, and mill employees all working together, there is the potential to lose financial incentives that help to actively manage our forests. We all know that an actively managed forest benefits everyone by creating oxygen, wildlife habitat, forest health and sequestering carbon. VFEF is currently working to reimagine youth forestry education in Virginia. Fifty years ago, our industry saw a need to develop the Reforestation of Timberlands (RT) program to ensure a future crop of timber to harvest. VFEF is working now to ensure a future workforce to harvest those trees. Your contributions are needed to help VFEF support educational programs and scholarships that educate youth about forests and natural resources. These programs can also provide their first introduction to careers in the forestry industry. Please call (804) 278-8733 or visit www.vfef.net to donate. All gifts are tax-deductible.
WINTER 2023 21 Virginia Forestry Educational Foundation’s (VFEF) Undergraduate Internship Program is a semesterlong course that aims to provide undergraduate students in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation with critical communication skills while sparking curiosity for the next generation of environmental conservationists. Participating forestry students design learning activities and presentations on a specific element of forest conservation to classrooms of grade school or high school students. “They start by deciding what subjects related to natural resources they want to teach,” said Alumni Distinguished Professor John Seiler, who started a similar program with Emeritus Professor Jeff Kirwan in 2001. “Then they consider how their subject fits with the Virginia Standards of Learning curriculum, and then we build from there.” The intention of the program is two-fold: to strengthen the communication skills of the undergraduate students who participate in the internship program, and to cultivate interest in forest and conservation fields that elementary and high school students might not otherwise gain exposure to. “This is a recruitment effort for the college,” said Seiler. “This semester, our interns presented at 30 different schools in Virginia, with 528 students seeing their work.” Paul Winistorfer, dean of the College of Natural Resources and Environment, said the internship program is just one of the ways the VFEF contributes to forestry education. “The VFEF is a long-standing provider of undergraduate scholarships for students studying forestry and forest products at Virginia Tech, and this program is one more way that they are helping to connect the learning that takes place here on campus with students across the Commonwealth,” said Winistorfer. Assistant Professor Patrick Corey Green, who teaches in the internship program with Seiler, said there is something special about high school students seeing someone closer to their age presenting on a subject. “It resonates differently, hearing from someone who is closer in age, closer to them in life,” said Green. “And the great strength of this program is that it puts our message into places we probably wouldn’t reach otherwise. I think it can help to bring in students who don’t find our majors through traditional routes.” “There are lots of real-world applications to this experience,” said Josh Long, who is from Floyd, Va. “I can take a lot of classes, but to go out there and teach something and try to impact people is a big skill, one that I can carry into a career in environmental education.” Reaching the Next Generation of Conservationists By David Fleming, Virginia Tech Participants in the VFEF internship program include (from left) Professor John Seiler, students Jillie Alexander, Arley Lausin, and Josh Long, and Assistant Professor Corey Green. (PHOTO BY DAVID FLEMING, VIRGINIA TECH) Read the full article online at https://vtx.vt.edu/articles/2023/01/cnre-vfef-internship-program.htmlwww.vaforestry.org