LBW forestry program makes the cut

Published 3:01 pm Friday, April 18, 2014

LBW Community College will continue the two-year forest technology program, the only one of its kind in the state and a fixture at LBW since 1980.

The program was one of several evaluated for viability, a necessary action by the college resulting from several consecutive years of state budget cuts, said LBWCC President Dr. Herb Riedel.

“After seven years of continuous budget cuts from the state, we reached a point where we had to evaluate all our programs,” he said.

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“LBW kept the forestry program even as other similar programs in Alabama and other areas in the south closed. Although it is the only program in the state and one of the few in the southeast, it struggled the past several years with low enrollment, low completion rates, and low job placement rates.”

When LBW’s forest technology program started 34 years ago, the timber industry was booming, he said. Through input from the Covington County Forestry Committee, however, Riedel said he better understands the cyclical nature of forestry-related industry.

“After a meeting with the Covington County Forestry Committee, chaired by Paul Langford, the college assessed the potential for the program,” he said.

“We learned from the committee that due to the cyclical nature of forestry-related industry and recent investments in the region, we expect employment opportunities to pick up. We also discussed the benefit of student housing as a way of helping to accommodate students from other parts of the state or out-of-state who wish to take part in the program.”

Riedel said the group of 13 he met with expressed support for the program in a variety of ways, such as sharing booth space during the Covington Sportsman’s Expo in late June, providing student recruitment assistance, and offering guidance for job placement of program graduates.

“Based on this new information and the support shown for the program by industry leaders, the College decided to continue the program,” he said.

“We are going to be very aggressive in recruiting new students to begin the program this fall.”