Article and images by Mary Bullwinkel
For high school graduates who do not plan to go on to college, but do want to go to work, there are well-paying jobs available now in the timber industry. That was the message given to 11 northern California students who recently visited active logging sites and toured a working sawmill as participants in the Boots on the Ground program.
The program was hosted by the Redwood Region Logging Conference (RRLC) and was the idea of 2019 RRLC President and logger Jake Morris.
Morris said for those who are interested in working in the woods, the keys to success are simple. “Do what you’re told to do and show up every day,” he said. “Show ambition, pay attention, listen, and learn,” he added. “That’s how you move up the ladder, and it pays huge dividends down the road.”
The students from three high schools in Humboldt County, California, were able to get a first-hand look at yarder and shovel logging operations on Green Diamond Resource Company property and tour the North Fork Lumber Company sawmill, located in the small community of Korbel, California.
Each student also received a $250 pair of custom-fitted work boots, thanks to two generous sponsors. “We hope this will be a pair of work boots for their future career in the timber industry,” said RRLC Executive Director Katherine Ziemer.
To cover the cost of the work boots and the field trip, Gloria Chambers of Chambers Logging donated funding in memory of her late husband Bob Chambers, and Christine Barkdull donated in memory of her late husband Richard Jackson.
Ziemer said, “This field trip was a one-on-one educational opportunity for students to ask questions and interact with resource professionals, get the answers to those questions, and also get leads on learning about careers in this industry.”
At one of the active logging sites, local logger Tony Leonardo told the students, “I went to work in the timber industry right out of high school.” He urged interested students to “show up and work hard, and that’s how you make a name for yourself. If you work hard,” he added, “there will always be a job out there.”
He described the logging and lumber industry as a tight-knit family and said if someone came to him looking for employment and he did not have any jobs available, he would refer the potential new employee to another company in the industry. “That’s just the way it works,” he said.
The hope is to continue the Boots on the Ground program in Humboldt County, with at least one field trip annually for high school students to go to the woods and tour a sawmill.
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