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California Resilient Careers in Forestry

Developing resilient careers in forestry for Californians.

California’s forested, rural areas have been dramatically affected by climate change, which has fueled record-breaking wildfires impacting communities across the state. 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 is a shortage of thousands of workers in relevant, well-paying jobs with benefits. Expanding resilient careers in forestry requires innovation in how workforce training programs recruit and support career-seekers and how they interact with the industry.

In response to the urgent need for skilled workers, the U.S. Economic Development Administration has awarded the Foundation for California Community Colleges (FoundationCCC) 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.

California Resilient Careers in Forestry is scaling a system for training and placing qualified workers into high-quality jobs in the forestry and fire safety sector.  These job placements 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 is expanding the industry’s talent pool and diversifying the field.

The California Resilient Careers in Forestry project was selected from a pool of over 500 applicants and is one of two grants awarded in California. The 32 grantees awarded are focused on diversifying the workforce in their respective industries, and will serve and support historically underrepresented populations to help communities recover with equity.

Career Awareness and Recruitment

Increasing awareness, understanding, and appeal of forest sector careers is crucial to meeting workforce needs. California Resilient Careers in Forestry is leading a multifaceted communications effort designed to motivate individuals to pursue careers in forestry, wildland firefighting, and forest operations, and connect them to the training and education pathways best suited to their individual needs and career goals. 

In Partnership with California Community Colleges

Work to expand forestry and fire-safety training programs is focused primarily in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade regions of northeastern California in partnership with five California community colleges (Butte College, Feather River College, Lake Tahoe Community College, Reedley College, and Shasta College), California State University Chico, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the Sierra Business Council. This group has proven experience delivering effective workforce training programs in partnership with industry and community.

Advancing the Forest Sector Workforce

California Resilient Careers in Forestry brings together educators, policymakers, practitioners, and workforce development professionals to collectively address workforce gaps in California’s forest and fire safety sectors.

The Forestry Workforce Summits, led by FoundationCCC, bring together leaders at the federal, state, and local level to identify and discuss resources for effective, equitable workforce development in forestry and wildfire management. Speakers and attendees included a broad range of stakeholders, including government and tribal representatives, forestry professionals, researchers, industry employers, community college and university administrators, and others interested in forestry.

The Forestry, Fire, and Natural Resources Faculty Convening Series gathers educators from across California’s higher education systems to share best practices and resources. This community of practice works to address common challenges such as increasing enrollment, curriculum alignment, clarifying career pathways, and improving transfer rates from community colleges to four-year institutions.

Forest Resilience Ambassador Program

The Forest Resilience Ambassador Program, spearheaded by FoundationCCC, is designed to educate and empower students and community members about sustainable forestry management and fire safety. Ambassadors play a key role in community outreach and engagement. They promote awareness about forestry and fire safety degrees and training programs while sharing their personal experience as a student within a related educational pathway.