Sierra Institute’s workforce training partnerships promote more forest jobs in the region

By Meg Upton

Sierra Institute for Community and Environment has been awarded $1 million for a “High Road to Forest Restoration Partnership.” The funding will be provided by California Climate Investments and the California Workforce Development Board.

The past five years of historic wildfire seasons have elevated awareness and increased urgency around forest management—both in the general public and locally by residents of Plumas National Forest. To help fill this critical need for skilled forest management, Sierra Institute through this partnership will provide pathways to jobs and on-the-job training to develop the workforce needed for crucial landscape restoration in the forests of central and northern California.

Coordinated by Sierra Institute, this partnership is a key step in building a regional capacity to train the workforce needed to increase the pace and scale of forest restoration and reduce catastrophic wildfire risk.  Calaveras Healthy Impact Products Solutions (CHIPS) is another key partner in this project. Communities most impacted by forest health will see expanded career opportunities within the forest sector, with jobs geared toward landscape stewardship, climate-mitigation and fire risk-reduction projects, and environmentally sustainable practices.

The partnership is anchored in the central and northern Sierra Nevada and is focused on building capacity for tribal forest restoration crews. It will include paid work experience and training for individuals already working on forest restoration crews, according to Sierra Institute’s director of communications Moorea Stout. Partners include two non-profit organizations, two community colleges and several tribes along with others involved in the Intertribal Stewardship Workforce Initiative.

A key goal of the partnership is to increase skills and opportunities for those who have faced barriers to employment due to historical injustices including tribal members, residents of low-income rural communities and returned formerly incarcerated citizens.

The program is part of the California Workforce Development Board’s High Road Training Partnership, which is funded through California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health, and the environment — particularly in disadvantaged communities.

 Training events will be listed on the Sierra Institute website as information  and opportunities become available (https://sierrainstitute.us). Those interested in participating in the program should check the website as information becomes available.

The program is due to kick off in June. Shasta Community College and Feather River College are participants in this program as well as Big Sandy Rancheria and the Greenville Rancheria.

CHIPS currently runs forest restoration crews in partnership with several tribes, and Sierra Institute runs its youth crews (PCREW), wilderness fuels modules and new swamper crews. They are still looking for participants for this year’s summer crews. CHIPS’ crews are staffed mostly by tribal members from the central Sierra region and from Paradise and Magalia area, while Sierra Institute crews are staffed by youth, young adults and others from local communities and more urban areas.