When I grow up, I want to be a ranger! How many young boys and girls across America dream of working in the great outdoors- afternoons on a forest trail or counting fish and wildlife by a stream. For 11 students of the Forestry Conservation and Firefighting program at the Oconaluftee Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center (OJCCCC), a day spent job shadowing at the Cheoah Ranger District (RD) headquarters in Robbinsville, NC brought them that much closer to understanding what a career with the Forest Service could actually look like. Deputy District Ranger, Lauren Stull, kicked off the day with an introduction to the Cheoah RD, “It was important to give some background on what the National Forest System branch of the Forest Service does and what we’re all about”.
Students also learned first hand about the timber and silviculture programs, environmental project planning, and fire program. Dave Casey, District Silviculturist and Chris Smith, District Timber Management Assistant, also provided background on their jobs. “I really enjoy my Forest Service career and it was great to have an opportunity to talk with these students about all of my experiences with the agency as they are planning their own careers” Casey said. Oconaluftee student, Ben Czarniak, learned the importance of cross-training and working in multiple areas. “You might be on a fire line one day and timber cruising the next. I grew up in the woods as a kid- I’ve always wanted something like this” said Czarniak.
Unique events like this allow employers, instructors, and students to all work together successfully. “We answered a lot of questions ranging from law enforcement to fire to logging equipment to endangered species concerns to career advice. The Cheoah RD enjoyed hosting these students for National Job Shadowing Day” Stull said. Oconaluftee Liaison Specialist, Holly Krake, also understands the importance of making the connection between textbooks and employer workplaces- like a fire team or hemlock treatment crew. “Working with the great staff of the Cheoah RD helped our students take that critical step out of the classroom and onto the job site” Krake said. “We hope to do much more hands-on work. A huge thanks to Deputy District Ranger Stull and staff for making this event happen”. There are currently plans for multiple projects between the RD and Oconaluftee across the Nantahala National Forest for the summer of 2011.
The Oconaluftee Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center is associated with the National Forests of North Carolina and currently serves 68 students. The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The Agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to State and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. For more information about OJCCCC, visit oconaluftee.jobcorps.gov . For more information on the National Forests of North Carolina, visit fs.fed.us