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$500,000 Grant To Fund Apprenticeships For Forestry, Natural Resources Jobs

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Columbia, CA — Forestry and natural resources is the focus area of a new, half-million-dollar apprenticeship program coming to the Mother Lode.

Columbia College officials share with Clarke Broadcasting that they have received formal notification from the state to award a 33-month grant to develop the offering, to be implemented beginning in the fall 2019 semester.

Sharing his thoughts on the news, Columbia College President Dr. Santanu Bandyopadhyay comments, “Columbia College is strategically located in the Yosemite Valley where fire and forestry is a way of life.” He adds, “The recent increase in devastating fires across the state emphasizes the need for active forest management. With the well-established programs in Fire Science and Forestry, Columbia College is in a position to take a leadership role in Fire and Forest Management. This grant will help advance the apprenticeship programs tremendously.”

It is the fourth such program for the college. Under the California Apprenticeship Initiative, programs are tapping Prop 98 funding to provide a broadened range of apprenticeship programs for California workers. Over the past three years, Columbia College has initiated apprenticeships in hospitality and child development along with a pre-apprenticeship in fire science, all of which are continuing to accept new students.

This latest influx of grant monies will fund development of the new offering and provide at least 25 students the opportunity to “earn while they learn” within an 18-month apprenticeship.

What Apprentices Receive, Work Towards  

Included are 288 instructional hours at Columbia College and 2,000 hours on-the-job training as Forest Service Technicians with sponsoring partners, the Greater Valley Conservation Corps and Sierra Resource Management.  Also covered under the grant are all tuition, books, and other related costs while the apprentices attend college during which time the employers pay their wages.

Klaus Tenbergen, the college’s dean of Career Technical Education and Economic Development and overseer of the program says that while it is open access to all ages and Columbia College accepts students beginning at age 16, apprenticeship employers may have some separate requirements. Those who complete the program will wind up with a Certificate of Completion from the Division of Apprenticeship Standards as well as a Skills Attainment Certificate from Columbia College in the Management and Restoration of Fire-Adapted Ecosystems. They also have the option of enrolling for additional coursework towards earning an associate’s degree.

Tenbergen notes that as with the other apprenticeship fields offered through the college, the forestry and natural resources apprenticeship aims at filling regional employment needs in an identified high-demand field. He says many people would find it surprising how many jobs are available working in this and fire science industries alone since they include support categories like maintenance and food service.

“Currently…based on conversations I have had with industry partners there is a big need to fill the gap with qualified people in the industry,” he shares. While the demand will fluctuate once some of the current needs are filled, he adds, “There are also a lot of opportunities for advancement because we do have a ton of people who are retiring out of the Forest Service in the years to come.”

As the grant award check has not yet been cut and the new program has yet to be developed, the Columbia College website will not have much for a while in the way of details about the new apprenticeship. However, for the posting location and more information about the current opportunities offered, click here.