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Elma Teacher Externship Event: Nurturing Youth Potential with Sierra Pacific and AJAC
I'm delighted to reflect on the recent Sierra Pacific Elma Teacher Externship Event, which took place on August 24, 2023. As the CEO of Pacific Mountain Workforce Development, I'm continually reminded of the untapped potential within our industry, as exemplified by Darrin Moorcroft, Sierra Pacific’s Washington Area Manager. Darrin's profound insight that "starting somewhere leads to getting somewhere" resonates strongly, dispelling the misconception that the forestry field is on the decline. Instead, the trades offer robust, family-sustaining career opportunities.
Darrin and Shawn, both products of White Pass High School in East Lewis County, epitomize the spirit of this initiative. Not every journey requires a college degree; the trades provide an alternative path brimming with high-tech, well-compensated positions, free from the burden of student debt. Roles like millwrights, electricians, and saw managers cultivate skills that are transferable across various sectors, as underscored by Shawn Dotson, Shelton Division Plant Manager.
Educators and students alike have resonated with the transformative impact of this program. Kimberly Hinderlie, an 8th-grade English teacher at Elma Middle School, enthusiastically exclaimed, "I'm texting my grandson, who's a junior at Elma High School right now, to tell him to get into this program."
Sierra Pacific's Shelton Fab Shop has taken a significant step in offering local high school students employment opportunities through a partnership with a youth apprentice program. Playing a vital role in this initiative is the Advanced Manufacturing Apprenticeships (AJAC), an industry-driven apprenticeship organization dedicated to providing on-the-job experience through internships. This alliance opens doors to a diverse range of opportunities in critical sectors such as Automation & Machinery, Clean Energy, Transportation & Logistics, Wood & Paper, and more. Together, they are reshaping the horizons of our youth, presenting them with invaluable experiences and boundless avenues for growth.
In Elma schools, there are three distinct educational pathways available: manufacturing, welding, and engineering. These programs provide students with valuable hands-on experience, allowing them to make direct contributions to mill operations. The partnership between Elma and Sierra Pacific commenced with the first cohort in July 2022 and continued with the second cohort in July 2023. This collaboration signifies a mutual investment by both the company and the students, extending beyond the acquisition of technical skills to the holistic development of well-rounded individuals.
Christi Cershaw, the CTE Director for the Elma School District, expressed, "Sierra Pacific is investing in the future, and the kids are investing in this company." Brandon Orcutt, a dedicated second-year program participant, enthusiastically added, "I love this program. The learning experience has been incredible so far."
Greg Scroggins, Elma Elementary Principal, emphasized the program's role in exposing students to diverse careers, stating, "Getting exposure to these careers is a priority in our curriculum so we can provide students with a target to shoot for."
In conclusion, let's heed the wisdom of educators like Kimberly Hinderlie and Greg Scroggins, recognizing the program's potential to guide students toward meaningful careers. The forestry industry offers abundant opportunities, more than we can currently fill, as emphasized by Bill Turner, Sierra Pacific Washington Log Procurement Manager. "This journey is an adventure, waiting for the next generation to embrace."
I'd like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Sierra Pacific for their invaluable partnership and their willingness to share their industry expertise with educators and students. Their commitment to investing in the future is making a significant impact on our community and the lives of our youth.
CEO, Pacific Mountain Workforce Development