Huey P. Long Tech College will teach logging skills
The Louisiana chapter of Society of American Foresters has announced its support for a training program for timber harvesting equipment operators to be offered at the Huey P. Long Campus of the Central Louisiana Technical College at Winnfield this spring.

Goal of the program is "to offer Louisiana contractors skilled, drug-free workers who can begin working immediately with complex harvesting equipment and fewer safety issues," according to the SAF newsletter issued in December 2012.

School administrator Danny Keyes confirmed that the training program is set to begin this coming March, following a series of planning meetings with logging contractors, and others from the timber industry.

The SAF newsletter lists skills to be taught in the 16-week pilot program, including CPR first aid and OSHA rules, safe operation of skidder, loader and feller-buncher, routine equipment maintenance, understanding of harvesting systems and role of teamwork, business and financial knowledge, environmental protection awareness, tree and product identification, GPS/computer technology, basic welding, Master Logger certification, and CDL license.

The course includes eight weeks of classroom and eight weeks of hands-on practice with equipment in the field.

According to SAF, there is a shortage of timber harvesters across the state, as nearly 50 percent of operators have left the business during the past ten years, As owners are retiring, there is a decreasing number of employees willing or capable of taking over the operation.

Future growth of the forest products industry will be limited by the lack of skilled labor in the woods as the forest industry turns around and wood supplies have to be increased.

The Huey P. Long school began operation as a local trade school over 50 years ago, and has trained hundreds of office workers, welders, mechanics, nurses, and others who have successfully entered the work force throughout North Louisiana and elsewhere.

Funding for the new Community College was approved five years ago as one of the final acts by then State Senator Mike Smith. The new campus opened in the spring of 2012, and has generated increasing interest within North Louisiana for job training courses.