15-R-15 LOUISIANA’S TIMBER HARVESTING EQUIPMENT OPERATOR (THEO) TRAINING PROGRAM

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Logger Education Program: general

INTRODUCTION:

Louisiana’s logging and forest industry started a pilot Timber Harvesting Equipment Operator (THEO) training program at the Central Louisiana Technical Community College (Winnfield, Louisiana; Huey P. Long Campus) in June of 2013. Originally a 16-week Continuing Education course (8 weeks of classroom and 8 weeks of equipment operation in the field), the program is now accredited within the Technical College system, and students can earn up to 21 credit hours that are transferable. Most of the eleven 2013 graduates and the four 2014 graduates were offered full-time logging employment upon graduating. The program is in its third year, with classes in conjunction with Northwest Louisiana Technical College (Sabine Valley Campus) having begun on May 26, 2015.

Class Training
Fig. 1: Classroom training supplements and lays groundwork for in-woods, on-machine training.

GENERAL FEATURES:

Students attend 5 weeks of classroom instruction from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Monday through Friday, and 13 weeks of field training, for a total of 15 credit hours toward a Certificate of Technical Competency. An additional 6 credit hours will earn a Certificate of Technical Studies. The current curriculum (see http://theola.homestead.com/SV_Curriculum.pdf) consists of:

CTC
• Introduction to the Timber Industry
• Basic Forest Management
• Harvesting Systems
• Field Safety
• Equipment Maintenance/Troubleshooting
• Master Logger classes (Harvest Planning, BMPs, Aesthetics, Business Management)

CTS
• Preventive Maintenance
• Diesel Engines
• Hydraulics
Additional subjects covered as part of the classroom training:
• CPR/First Aid
• OSHA (10-hour)
• Map Reading
• Tree I.D.
• Forest Products/Specifications
• Personal Finance

OPERATION:

The 13 weeks of the program spent in the field include operating equipment provided by local dealers (provided in 2013 by Louisiana Cat, the local Caterpillar dealer; and in 2015, provided by Doggett Machinery, a local John Deere dealer). The students learn to operate a feller-buncher, skidder, and knuckleboom loader with a pull-through delimber. Each student gets an opportunity to practice on all three pieces of equipment. By the end of the class, each student will have had approximately 104 hours of seat time (about 35 hours on each piece of equipment). The students, working as a crew, harvest the timber, and local contractors take care of the hauling.

Students will receive their Master Logger certification, as well as First Aid/CPR and OSHA 10-hour training, which are generally required for anyone working in the woods.

Forestland owners provide the timber tracts. Six-C provided the timber for the 2013 class, Roy O Martin Companies provided the timber to harvest for the 2014 class, and Hancock will provide the timber for the 2015 class. Ideal class size is about 12, so the class can be split when going to the field, with only 6 students taking turns operating equipment each day.

In The Woods Traing
Fig. 2: In-woods training includes visits to logging jobs . . .

APPLICATION:

The program was started with a partnership between the Louisiana Logging Council, the Louisiana Society of American Foresters, the Louisiana Loggers Association, and The Timbermen Fund insurer. Additional support for the program has come from the Plum Creek Foundation, International Paper, the Louisiana Forestry Association, and the Delta Regional Authority, as well as local businesses and logging contractors. The Delta Regional Authority is a federal-state partnership that is Congressionally mandated to help create jobs, build communities, and improve lives in the 252 counties and parishes of the Delta. The investments come through the DRA’s States Economic Development Assistance Program.

The THEO program is successful because many volunteers and organizations (see the THEO website for list) have bought into the program, and the graduates have jobs waiting for them when they finish. A future program need is to get into the high schools and begin exposing students to logging at that point, so when they graduate they have some direction for career opportunities in forestry, including forestry technician, manufacturing, and logging. Ideally, the THEO program should move around the State and obtain the full support of the Community and Technical Colleges. (Equipment manufacturers, industry, and the logging community are already providing excellent support.)

The original THEO committee has contracted with the Natchitoches Community Alliance (NCA), a local economic development non-profit foundation, to administer the program. NCA is also recruiting students for the class. With the help of NCA, there is an opportunity to grow the THEO model into a regional program, serving more than one state.

hours operating
Fig. 3: . . . as well as many hours operating equipment.

SPECIFICATIONS AND COSTS:

Classroom instructors are volunteers from the industry. Field instructors are paid by the Technical College. The 2013 and 2014 instructors were Bubba Hubbard, Clarence Procell, and Tony Lavespere, retired logging contractors with many years of experience. Instructors for the 2015 class are Sam Rivers Jr., Jimmy Williams, and Tim Sepulvado, also experienced logging contractors.

Tuition, around $1,900 per semester, does not cover all costs, and donations from the industry are required to continue to operate the program each year. The total cost to operate the program is around $150,000 annually.

Most of the cost of the program is in the field portion. Fortunately, the equipment has been donated every year, which is a significant contribution. In addition to the paid instructors, a driver to transport the students every day is hired. Fuel has been donated by Lott Oil and the Southern Loggers Coop, but oil and other supplies have to be purchased. By far the largest expense is the purchase of General Liability insurance. Equipment insurance has been donated by the dealers.

Logging contractors who are ready to hire a new employee are encouraged to come and see the class operating the equipment in the field. Call the Natchitoches Community Alliance at 318-609-1230 for information on where the field training is taking place. Information is also available at www.THEOLA.Homestead.com and on Facebook.com at LA2103THEO.

Holly Morgan
Education Chair
Louisiana Society of American Foresters
Natchitoches, Louisiana
318-446-3109
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Jack McFarland
McFarland Timber
Winnfield, Louisiana
318-471-6424
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STAFF COMMENT:

FRA is developing a summary of “entry-level” harvesting equipment operator training programs across the U.S. and Canada. Please contact FRA if you have relevant information to provide for any state or province.

Reviewed by:
Rick Meyer
Appalachian/Southwide Region Manager