California’s forested, rural areas have been dramatically affected by climate change, which has fueled record-breaking wildfires that destroyed multiple communities and burned 2.5 million acres in 2021.
The emerging forestry and fire safety sector has the potential to grow into a $39 billion industry while protecting communities, landscapes and natural carbon stores in forests. Yet there are shortages of thousands of workers in relevant well-paying jobs with benefits, including but not limited to fire and forestry crew leads, conservation scientists, and U.S. Forest Service crew members. Expanding resilient careers in forestry requires innovation in how workforce training programs recruit and support career-seekers and how they interact with industry.
In response to the urgent need for skilled workers, the US Economic Development Administration has awarded the Foundation for California Community Colleges a $21.5 million grant to support its “California Resilient Careers in Forestry” proposal. The award is part of the Good Jobs Challenge, funded by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan and administered by the Commerce Department.
Funding will support a four-year project to scale a system for training and placing qualified workers into high-quality jobs in the forestry and fire safety sector. These job placements will respond to critical needs that build economic and climate resilience in California’s forested, rural communities.
By working to recruit, support and train local residents in partnership with multiple Hispanic-serving institutions, Indigenous-led partners and other community-based organizations, the project will expand the industry’s talent pool and diversify the field.