By Vickie Swanton
As many know, workforce development has been an ongoing topic of discussion, sometimes concern, in the forest industry for many years. National, regional, and state associations have tried multiple ways to assist members in finding new employees when they have open positions in their companies.
In early 2019, the Forest Resources Association began a pilot project in the West called “Workforce Connections.” The main goal of this project is connecting industry companies and individuals looking for employment. We wanted to be the “umbrella” to ensure that all stakeholders were seeing as much information as possible to encourage more dialogue throughout the hiring process. Students, graduates, and professors should be able to see what jobs are available currently, and what the job markets will look like in the future.
A big part of being this umbrella was connecting with educational institutions throughout the region. FRA’s job board was shared with educational representatives across the region. The expectation was that professors would share the details with students and alumni. Some of the schools did share the link directly to their websites.
Since Workforce Connections’ launch, FRA has shared pertinent information via social media each week. These include virtual learning opportunities, forestry professional profiles, leadership opportunities, and multiple videos that other organizations have produced on working in the industry.
Pivoting outreach methods
However, when the pandemic hit, we knew things weren’t going to be the same for the next months, years, or longer. A few of us jumped on Zoom and discussed what we could do differently to continue the Workforce Connection’s mission of promoting the industry—and the jobs within—to a generation now learning primarily in an online setting.
Many things were discussed on the call, but the one item that kept coming up was the need to get in front of younger and younger students to ensure the industry’s story was being heard positively and EARLY! The fact that the “TikTok Generation” sees things very creatively and perhaps much differently than we who have already been in the workforce for years got us thinking that a video contest for high school students could open up an opportunity to tap into skills relatively unused in this arena to promote the forest industry. This approach would bring more positive promotion to forestry from youth, with the primary audience being their peers. In addition, these videos would be watched by K-8 students, parents, and teachers.
We reached out to state and regional associations within a four-state region (Idaho,Montana, Oregon, and Washington) to see if there was any interest in collaborating to create a video contest to promote the forest industry. The response was tremendous. Since the end of June, each week we have met via Zoom to discuss next steps, action items, timelines, etc.
Of course, there are things behind the scenes that we have been working on that also have to be considered: working with underage youth, using their likenesses, and owning the videos they produce once they are submitted. Many of these are items we have not dealt with before, but we know people!
One of the great things about having so many organizations represented on the project is that we have a very large network of people who we know, respect, and have worked with on many other projects. Many of these folks do have the knowledge and skills necessary to ensure we are covering all those bases. Thanks to all those who have fielded a question (or two) from one of us and have been willing to lend a hand.
We will also be requesting sponsorship for this great effort soon. Please take our calls or answer our emails when you see “Thru the Trees” on that subject line. We are all very passionate about the endeavor and think it will bring much to the industry.
If you have any questions about the contest, would like to be included in the planning process, have experience in running contests with some great insight for us, or would like to be a sponsor, I’d love to hear from you.
Vickie Swanton is the western region manager for the Forest Resources Association. She can be reached at 906-282-6752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thru the Trees Video Contest
- Theme/Title of 2020 contest: Thru the Trees: Today’s Forest Careers
- Residents of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, ages 13 to 18 are eligible to participate.
- Timeline for the contest will center around 2020 Forest Products week (October 18-24). Most likely we will request submission until October 24 and will announce the winners by early December. More to come on this.
- We have procured a domain for the contest—ThruTheTrees.org. There is no content currently; it will be under construction for some time.
- Prizes (tentative)
- Three finalists from each state will receive $100 each. These finalists will then be eligible to win the top prizes.
- $1,000 grand prize
- $500 second prize
- $250 third prize
- A panel will judge each submission using these criteria (subject to change):
- Clearly relates to the contest title/purpose—20 points
- Accuracy of information—20 points
- Industry Outreach/References—20 points
- Communication or impact of message—20 points
- Originality and creativity—20 points
- The planning team envisions this as an annual event with a different theme each year. We hope to extend the age limits to include middle school students and widen the geographic areas.
The following organizations are part of the Thru the Trees project team.
Associated Logging Contractors
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
Forest Resources Association / 906.282.67522
Forests Today & Forever
Idaho Forest Group
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
Idaho Forest Products Commission
Montana Logging Association
Oregon Forest Resources Institute
Oregon Logging Conference
Oregon Logging Conference Foundation
Oregon Women in Timber
Pacific Education Institute
Pacific Logging Conference
Project Learning Tree / Idaho
Sustainable Forestry Initiative/Project Learning Tree
Washington, District of Columbia