By Tamara Lowney, APEX Senior Business Developer
In September, Itasca County Fairgrounds hosted the Minnesota Timber Producers Association's 64th annual North Star Expo, the state's largest logging, trucking, and sawmill equipment show. The event showcases our region's forest products industry. The widely recognized event is attended and supported by local business owners, logging and trucking professionals, policy makers (including Congressman Rick Nolan), regional chambers of commerce, industry stakeholders, and more.
This year for the first time, more than 20 different organizations, businesses and government agencies came together to educate students on careers in the forest sector. Five area high schools brought over 140 juniors and seniors to the event to learn about forestry and industry jobs and the importance of managing our forests. The students spoke with industry folks, loggers, truckers, foresters, and educators; watched Log-a-Load project volunteers harvest trees; got introduced to massive equipment and new technology; and heard from passionate young people working every day in the Forest Products Industry. This feature was sponsored by the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, the Applied Learning Institute, Healthy Forests Healthy Communities, Log a Load for Kids, the DNR, U.S. Forest Service, Blandin UPM, Itasca Economic Development Corporation, and APEX (a business development engine for northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin) and Expo organizers.
In a follow-up survey completed by more than half of the students who attended, the response was comprehensive and positive. More than 20 percent of students reported that their interest in pursuing a forest products career moved from "not interested" to "definitely interested." This shows us that events like this are key to reaching our youth and important to continue.
Everyone recognizes that developing future workforce is critical for every aspect of the forest products industry, and involving youth in that message is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle.
Everyone recognizes that developing future workforce is critical for every aspect of the forest products industry, and involving youth in that message is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. "Both APEX and NORTHFORCE are committed to building a bridge between industry and students. Participating in the Expo is one way to ensure we are helping build the region's next generation workforce," stated Brian Hanson, APEX President and CEO.
The team who developed this model is sure that it made an impact on educating our future workforce and are planning a similar event in 2018. It was only through the commitment of our partners that made this event a tremendous success. We are grateful for the donors, volunteers, and community partners who helped educate our next generation on forest management and showcase the many career opportunities in their own backyards.