VFA Virginia Forests Winter 2023

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