Investing In Our Youth

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Nothing stays the same, especially us. And perhaps it’s because my grandchildren are “growing like weeds,” or that several close friends have recently passed away that has me preoccupied with the importance of our younger generation(s), and the need for us to nurture and include them.

Our 32nd President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, said, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” I’m not sure when those profound words were spoken – probably during the rebuilding of our country post the Great Depression – but they are certainly appropriate to today’s topic, Investing in our Youth.

In this space, four years ago, I wrote, “We are an industry, and a nation, in the midst of a labor crisis. There is much to be done to resolve this issue. And there is no easy fix to this situation. But getting involved in training partnership programs with technical schools, community colleges and Universities in your area of the country are excellent places to start.” Well, as we all know, the labor crisis continues, but not for lack of trying on HMA’s part.

The Susan M. Regan Memorial Scholarship was established in tribute to the late Susan Regan, who served as Executive Vice President of the Hardwood Manufacturers Association (HMA) from 1990-2007. For those of you who knew Sue, you know that she was a dedicated industry stakeholder and a forerunner in the effort to raise consumer awareness of American Hardwoods. 

Each year, HMA scholarships are available to qualified students enrolled in an accredited forestry and/or wood products program – HMA’s way of ensuring that Sue will continue to be remembered for her stellar work in the promotion of solid American Hardwood products, and one of our efforts to assist with the recruitment challenges facing our industry.

The most recent recipient of the Susan M. Regan Memorial Scholarship is Lucas Dionne, a second-year student at Northcentral Technical College, and a Wood Science major working toward a Wood Technology Associate Degree. In his thank you letter to the HMA, Lucas provided these words regarding his career path choices, and much more.

“Woodworking has always interested me, but I never considered a career in the Forest Products Industry until my junior year of High School. During a Career Fair, I met my current instructor, Travis Allen, and he hooked me on the idea of being part of the Wood Science Program at the Northcentral Technical College. Leading up to my classes there, I focused on learning as much as my High School Shop instructor could teach me. 

And twice I toured Zelazoski Wood Products, Inc., located in my hometown, and both times ended the tours feeling that I belonged there. I was employed there in the summer of 2020, and worked every task as if I were made to do it. As of now, a career in kiln operations fascinates me. Thank you for helping me get to this point.” 

Here’s the ‘take away’ for us all.

Unbeknown to Lucas, he was telling us how to ‘grow’ others like him. What we all can do to identify, recruit and develop the “entry-level” manpower needed for our businesses. Visit High Schools. Participate in Career Fairs. Open our doors and conduct tours of our operations. Partner with Tech Colleges. In short, invest in our Youth! It works.

I’m nearing my word count max, so I’ll end with this. I’m pleased to announce an addition to our HMA staff – Ian Faight – HMA’s newly appointed Marketing, Communications & Digital Content Director. Touting a Marketing degree from Penn State University, along with 13 years of experience with Pittsburgh-based Public Relations firm, PUSH 7 (formerly Yearick-Millea), and the Pipitone Group, Ian brings a Millennial mind-set and unique skill set to the HMA. And, as he is quite familiar with the industry, I’m confident he will both augment our efforts and take them to the next level. Welcome Aboard, Ian! And Happy Summer to all. 

By Linda Jovanovich

Executive Vice President, Hardwood Manufacturers Association, Pittsburgh, PA 412-244-0440 HMAMEMBERS.ORG

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