VFA Virginia Forests Winter 2023

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