Future Forest Stewards

High school students gain insight on career opportunities in northeastern Minn.

At the Minnesota Timber Producers Association’s 66th annual North Star Expo Sept. 13-14, high school students from around the area were able to learn about careers in the Minnesota forestry industry at a variety of sessions hosted by the Future Forest Stewards (FFS).

FFS began through a partnership with the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce’s Forestry Affairs Committee. Funding partners of this career event at the North Star Expo include: Itasca Economic Development Corporation, Blandin Foundation, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, Timber Producers Association, Minnesota Forest Industries, Iron Range Resource and Rehabilitation, Applied Learning Institute, Northeast Office of Job Training and Area Partnership of Economic Expansion.

According to a FFS press release, “FFS was founded to foster connections between high school students and forestry industry professionals.”

Tamara Lowney, president of IEDC, started the Future Forest Stewards program and the career expo three years ago. She commented that the plan is to continue the event in future years and she hopes to include other areas of Minnesota to join as well.

“We work closely with our businesses to bring in people from their teams to speak that are closer to the students age. We feel it is easier for students to connect to them and to see themselves in their shoes,” Lowney said. “It is critical for them to understand first hand that there are great opportunities right here in their backyard.”

Students moved between four educational sessions focusing on Loggers and Logging Equipment, DNR and USFS, Education, and Industry. Careers that were highlighted included logging, forestry, trucking, mechanics, millwork, manufacturing, research and many others.

“This opportunity will give students a first-hand look at the importance of Minnesota’s forestry industry and the wide variety of careers essential to keeping the state a strong producer of timber and timber products,” according to a FFS press release.

Many businesses and organizations were present at the expo to speak with students face-to-face. These included:

Itasca County

Department of Natural Resources

United States Forestry Service

Itasca Community College

University of Minnesota

UPM Blandin


Nelson Wood Shims

Bell Timber

Lund Logging

Pittack Logging

Beckman Logging



Minnesota Power

The event saw 195 students from Grand Rapids, Deer River, Bigfork, Nashwauk, Hibbing, Greenway and Chisholm attend.

President and CEO of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce Bud Stone noted that within the last three years, there has been an increase in the amount of students enrolling in a post-high school degree programs related to the forestry industry.

“There are multiple different careers in the forest product industry,” Stone said. “There’s just so many avenues to follow.”

Stone added that there has been a great amount of positive feedback from students, industry professionals and teachers about the career expo.

“Workforce challenges are abundant throughout our region and state, we have to look beyond typical recruitment measure to try to really reach young people,” Lowney said. “Without them, we will continue to struggle in the years ahead to attract, hire and keep staff at our businesses in rural Minnesota.”

For more information about FFS, contact Tamara Lowney at tlowney@itascadv.org.


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