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Growing a Timber Workforce in Georgia

Group of (mostly young) men in yellow vests and hard hats on timber land

The Timber Harvest Operations Program is designed to give opportunities to join the timber harvesting industry to youth of select high schools in Georgia. 

Timber Harvesting Operations Program

What makes the Timber Harvesting Operations Program (THOP) unique is its origin story of competing timber companies coming together to solve a problem for the betterment of not only their industry, but their local communities and economy as well.

Over the years, several Georgia timber industry leaders noticed a decline in their workforce and wondered how they could increase opportunities for local youth to get involved in the timber harvesting business. Thanks to them, Coastal Pines Technical College and local high schools, the THOP program was developed and outlines a path for high school seniors to become certified and able to work in the industry upon graduation and completion of the program.

Upon its inception, an advisory committee was established to ensure the program remains up-to-date with industry standards. The board meets regularly to discuss the direction of the program and its successes. Among the board is AgSouth Farm Credit Vice President of Corporate Lending, Jon Harris, who had the privilege of helping draft the initial program back in 2016 and currently leads an intro to forest finance segment in one of the classes in the spring. Harris states, “This is a great opportunity to not only plant the seeds of understanding personal and business finance with students who will soon be graduating, but also take a moment to talk about how AgSouth is connected to the forestry and agricultural communities and how it all ties together.”

Circle of people conversing in a dirt parking lot

(AgSouth Vice President of Corporate Lending, Jon Harris (green), and Leasing Specialist, Donald Crumbley (blue), take a break with THOP Students during the summer logging section of the program.)

How it Works

The program is currently offered by Coastal Pines Technical College through Pierce County, Charlton County and Jeff Davis County High Schools in Georgia, and consists of three parts: 1. Basic Timber Harvesting Certification; 2. Timber Harvesting Operations Certification; and 3. Commercial Driver’s License Training.

The Basic Timber Harvesting Certificate is offered in a local high school and consists of four credit courses. After high school graduation and upon successful completion of the Basic Timber Harvesting Certificate, students are eligible to participate in the Timber Harvesting Operation Certificate. This certificate program includes traditional instruction along with hands-on performance using logging equipment. The final stage of the training enables the student to complete the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) training and obtain the required commercial driver’s license to begin work in the industry.

When asked about the future of the THOP, Harris is passionate about growing the program. “I feel like the biggest impact I can have at this point is to help promote a program that is training young men and women to enter the workforce in their local communities. We feel that the template that Coastal Pines follows would work well in other areas. If you’re interested in participating, please contact your local high schools, local technical college and your local state representatives about adding the Timber Harvesting Operations Program to their curriculums.”