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Matching Jobs with Prospects in the Lumber Industry

Jobs in the Lumber Industry

A four-year college degree isn’t for everyone, and the country is starting to realize that fact. Labor shortage in the building industry is an ongoing issue – we all know that, we’ve all experienced it. And now one wood association is doing something about it: the Northeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association (NELMA) recently launched a “Jobs in the Industry” webpage, designed to match actual lumber industry jobs with yet-untapped groups of potential employees.

It all started back in 2017, when several of NELMA’s sawmill-owner members approached their association with a request: help them cast a wider net for job prospects. Outdated ideas of what jobs in the lumber industry entailed – hint: it’s not all beards and flannel shirts! – were keeping people away, and the mills were suffering. The result: a comprehensive educational outreach program designed to draw qualified 18-23-year olds to the lumber industry.

“It’s all about changing perceptions,” said Jeff Easterling, president of NELMA. “The modern lumber industry includes marketing, computer programming, operations, quality control, information technology, sales, and so much more. For the most part, any job that’s part of any other industry – you’ll find it in the lumber industry as well!”

So how does it work?

It starts with the website: There you’ll find program details, a current jobs listing board, an industry overview, sustainability/renewable resource information, and a brand-new video library with short snippets explaining the careers available in the lumber industry.

To get the word out, NELMA developed and distributed an informational poster to every single high school in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont (up next: northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan). The poster features a scratch-and-sniff section, and asks students to consider what they’re next job might smelllike (answer: pine!). The poster will be distributed to trade schools and two-year community colleges throughout NELMA’s graphic footprint (Maine & New England to the Great Lakes) during 2Q19.

But what about those job seekers who have already left high school and are looking for their next step? A simple, direct want ad will appear in major newspapers – print and online – across New England in the coming months. The first weekend it appeared, the NELMA jobs website experienced a significant visitor spike

Is it working? It is! Guidance counselors have reached out to NELMA to brainstorm ways in which they can work together to spread the word, and plans are on the horizon for mill tour field trips and much more.

“This is a much-needed service both for our members and for those young people who are wondering what their next step should be,” continued Easterling. “This isn’t even close to  your grandpa’s lumber industry! We are vibrant and growing, technologically savvy and exciting, and have so much to offer in the way of career paths, upward mobility, and opportunities to grow and learn. Come join us!”

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