VFA Virginia Forests Winter 2023

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.