By Logan Wells, forest products specialist, Hayward
Workforce development efforts are a key pillar in the Forest Products Services (FPS) program’s strategic direction. These efforts range from teaching and organizing technical workshops on topics that range from rail tie manufacturing to lumber grading. Traditionally, many efforts have focused on training the existing industry workforce. In addition, several current initiatives to raise career awareness in the forest products industry among students include the UW-Stevens Point LEAF Forest Products Kit and the Skills USA woodworking competition.
To build on these efforts of raising awareness about the importance of forest products and potential careers, an industry perspective curriculum is being developed by FPS in cooperation with agriculture teachers, industry partners and LEAF staff. The first installment of the curriculum will focus on the hardwood lumber sector and will be a full weeks’ worth of material. The first class is devoted to establishing basic information about the industry and process of turning logs into lumber. A general overview of the terms, products, jobs and sawmill equipment will be the focus of the first day. The second and third days will allow students to learn and practice the hands-on skill of lumber grading. Lumber grading is one of the most important skillsets in the hardwood industry. Teaching an abbreviated form of lumber grading will provide students a chance to practice applied math and critical thinking in a real-world application. The fourth day will be devoted to learning about the different types of defects in lumber and their causes along with a review exercise for the week. The final day will include resources for classes to connect with a guest speaker, participate in a mill tour or learn about other opportunities to continue to explore the hardwood lumber industry.
These materials will target freshman through junior level students and be taught in Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes like industrial technology, woodworking, agriculture or forestry/natural resources. The lumber grading program will be piloted with several schools this fall and be available in late Spring 2020. Eventually this model of industry perspective curriculum will be expanded to highlight information and skills of other sectors of the forest products industry, including logging and trucking. If you have thoughts or questions, or if would like to learn more about the program, please contact Logan Wells at Logan.Wells@wisconsin.gov.