As we continue into the 2020s, both the need for lumber and forest management is slowly being outweighed by the realities of the workforce that make up the majority of the industry. The men and women in the logging industry that have given years of service are going into retirement, so the need for a replenishment of young and eager talent to move the industry into its next stage of growth is paramount.
A Cut Above the Rest
Papé Machinery has proudly partnered with Redding, California’s Shasta Community College to help shepherd the growth of both the national- and state-level lumber industry in hopes of growth over the next decade and beyond.
Ted James, a Forester with Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI), says, “With over 150 million burned, dead, or dying trees, the California logging industry has its work cut out for it. But the average logging heavy equipment operator is over 50 years old, and the pipeline of younger operators is minimal.”
Through the Shasta College-led initiative, new and continuing students can expect several industry-specific programs covering topics such as Advanced Manufacturing, Welding, as well as ever-important Fire Technology courses, and many more. With funding from CAL FIRE and a partnership with the California Apprenticeship Initiative, students enrolled in the program have access to direct, on-the-job training from such notable logging groups like Associated California Loggers, California Women in Timber, Loggers Association of Northern California, and the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference.
Working in lumber is a challenging and rewarding career, which is why the Heavy Equipment Logging Operations (HELO) program provides an “in-woods” experience utilizing SPI’s 45,000-acre outdoor classroom where students can pilot modern logging equipment in a real-world environment.
Those interested in the HELO logging certification program can expect two full-time semesters as well as a registered apprenticeship and worksite training. Classes and logging training courses throughout the program are designed to complement and flow into one another so that at the end of a student’s time at Shasta College, they’ll be ready for the job they want in the lumber or forestry industry.
Faculty, Equipment & Industry Support
To prepare for the new influx of eager students, we sat down with Zachary Zweigle, the HELO Program Administrator at Shasta College and asked him a few questions regarding the program and the partnership with Papé.
Speaking on Papé Machinery’s involvement, Zweigle said, “The partnership with Papé has been effortless. Papé shares in our efforts to ensure our students are utilizing the most up-to-date equipment as they engage in the practical application of learning.” Through traditional and socially-distant alternatives, recruitment for the HELO program has been positive, oftentimes leading to enthusiastic students in the program being ambassadors for their studies and the program.
When asked what sets Shasta College’s HELO program apart from other logging program alternatives, Zweigle said, “Three things really make our programs valuable: top-tier faculty, excellent practical learning tools, and support. I would put our faculty up against those at any other institution. You will not find a more knowledgeable and student-centered group of professionals anywhere else. The faculty are buttressed by the most up-to-date teaching tools. And finally, our programs have the full assistance of industry professionals that lend advisement, as well as college administration that support the efforts of the faculty and staff on behalf of the students.”
Located in Redding, California, Shasta College is surrounded by some of the most beautiful national parks and forests the state has to offer. Shasta College’s proximity to these natural resources is one of the main reasons for the HELO program’s success. Out of the entire state, 74% of logging establishments are located in the northernmost areas of California. In fact, 82% of logging job opportunities in California can be found in this region of the state.
On this topic, Zweigle says, “Anecdotally, we hear from both our past students and our industry partners that our students are finding successful employment within the forest sector. Insuring even greater success moving forward, we are working with employers to develop a Registered Apprenticeship program as yet another entry point to high-paying careers for our students upon completion of our certificate program.”
When asked about the HELO program’s extensive hands-on equipment experience, Zweigle remains positive, “...there is no substitute for the experience gained through the operation of industry specific equipment. ...until they have a chance to work with equipment and put those theoretic skills into practice, they have not had a chance to truly cement that learning.”
Advantage Over Other Job Seekers
Alumna of the program and current heavy equipment operator with Warner Enterprises, Sabrina Cantu, expressed similar sentiments about the hands-on experience. “I know it gave me an advantage. When I went to talk to my now boss, Gary, and was able to tell him I had run a whole bunch of different equipment. He knew that he could take me from there and teach me the way his company does things.”
Cantu recommends the program to other students who think they may be interested in logging. “It really gave me the opportunity to see whether or not I’d be interested and obviously I’m hooked.” The best part of the program according to Cantu? “The teachers were the most important part for me because I put my trust in them and I know that no matter what I was going to learn something.”
The next generation of the lumber industry is here, and for those looking to be a part of it, Shasta Community College’s HELO program is an excellent step in the right direction. Through a partnership with Papé and other notable industry leaders, students who enroll will be well on their way to the career they want.
Learn more about Shasta Community College’s Heavy Equipment Logging Operations program and register today!