On January 9 and 10, deans, department chairs, and career services coordinators from 12 southeastern universities gathered at the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) in Asheville, NC. They were joined by executives, researchers, foresters, human resources professionals, and others from SRS and the Southern Region.
The purpose of the meeting was to share information about Forest Service (FS) and university programs that could lead to FS careers for students. The workforce at SRS and at Southern Region has shrunk over the past decade, and the Forest Service wants to recruit young people.
Many of the universities that participated were land-grant institutions, historically black, or Hispanic-serving. Alabama A&M University, Auburn University, Clemson University, North Carolina State University, Southern University, Stephen F. Austin University, Tuskegee University, University of Georgia, University of Kentucky, University of Texas at San Antonio, University of Tennessee, and Virginia Tech all participated in the meeting.
During the meeting, human resources professionals described changes to the FS hiring process, and introduced the Pathways Program, which provides internships to students and recent graduates.
Navigating the hiring process can be difficult for students, and meeting participants worked in small groups to discuss this challenge and identify potential solutions. The groups concluded that one of the ways to resolve this challenge was for the FS to communicate career opportunities with university career services professionals, who would be able to help students apply in USAJOBS.
Participants identified several other challenges. For example, many students are not aware of the benefits and opportunities a FS career can provide, and there is a disconnect between universities and the FS.
Many of the solutions to these challenges involved building and maintaining relationships. Identifying ways that universities and the FS can work together more closely can bring interested students closer to a FS career. The FS promotes an inclusive workplace, and looks forward to bringing a new cohort of students into the organization in the years ahead.
There are many reasons to work with young people in ways that will enhance their appreciation of the natural world, and there are many students who would be interested in the opportunity to serve their communities by sustaining the health, diversity, and productivity of our nation’s forests and grasslands.
For more information, email Monica Schwalbach at firstname.lastname@example.org.