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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 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 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. 

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.

In Partnership with California Community Colleges

Work to expand forestry and fire-safety training programs will take place 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.

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.

Forestry Workforce Summit

On November 6 – 8, 2023, the Foundation for California Community Colleges (FoundationCCC) hosted a two-day Forestry Workforce Summit in partnership with the UC Davis Institute of the Environment and supported by presenting sponsor Forest Futures, an initiative of the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation.  This event expanded the dialogue launched at the initial summit that took place in January 2023 and included pre-summit fieldtrips and workshops in Anderson, CA. The north-state location of the fall summit allowed deeper engagement with forest and wildfire management employers and connections to communities impacted by this work.

The Forestry Workforce Summits brought together leaders at the federal and state 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.

Dialogue helped advance California’s goal to protect its communities from wildfires by preparing individuals for jobs in this vital sector of work, resulting in greater economic development in historically underdeveloped regions. The events were supported by a $21.5 million Good Jobs Challenge grant from the US Economic Development Administration which established FoundationCCC’s Resilient Careers in Forestry program to coordinate and expand fire safety and forestry training programs in northeastern California, including the Sierra Nevada and Cascades. 

Forest Resilience Ambassador Program

The Forest Resilience Ambassador Program, spearheaded by the Foundation for California Community Colleges (FoundationCCC) and the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Good Jobs Challenge, 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, promoting awareness about forestry and fire safety degrees and training programs while researching and addressing barriers to entry and completion.