Training Our Next Generation of Forest and Mill Workers

Infographic with word Skill in the center.

Finding employees is a challenge for every part of the forest industry supply chain. Locating loggers, truckers, and workers for mills is increasingly difficult. When I talk to members about their greatest challenges, “workforce” is almost always at the top of the list.

Prior to this year’s FRA Annual Meeting, the National Supplier / Consumer Relations Committee met to discuss ways to address this challenge. One item on the to-do list is to develop an inventory of those post-secondary workforce training programs for loggers, forest products truckers, mill workers, and others that make our industry operate smoothly from the woods to the mill.

FRA, its members, and allied associations are aware of logger, forest product trucker, and mill (sawmill, paper mill, panel manufacturing, and others) training efforts across the country. These include training programs at community colleges, trade schools, and other institutions of higher learning. We are particularly looking at certificate / non-degree programs, which are often hardest to identify. In FRA’s experience, these programs are highly effective but small and not networked. These programs seek to meet local needs and often find innovative and creative ways to achieve their mission.

FRA seeks to inventory these programs – including information on the type of training program, contact information, size and longevity of the program, funding sources, and budget. We want to serve as an information clearinghouse to identify and potentially connect these programs. While there are steps that could be taken afterward, the first step is clearly to inventory these programs and share the results among FRA members, educational programs, allied associations, and other stakeholders.

I need your help. If you are aware of such programs – ones your firm supports or hires from, ones you know of – please let me know about them and how to get in touch. You can email me at [email protected]. Obviously, a program name and contact information are great, but if what you know is “I think there is a program for paper mill workers at one of the community colleges in Maine,” I can take it from there.

Later this summer, we will be surveying these programs, working to develop a standard baseline of information on each effort. We will compile this information into a shareable format and distribute it broadly. Having this information may lead to a number of follow-on projects, including the development of model curriculums and opportunities for programs to meet virtually or in-person to share ideas and practices. The possibility for any of these activities relies upon a thorough inventory of existing programs.

Thank you, and again, email me at [email protected], and we will look forward to sharing results later this year.