August 29, 2008

East Kentucky youths will explore opportunities in the area's forest industry and possibly earn money for college during the University of Kentucky Robinson Station's Win With Wood program. Events begin at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 16 at the Wood Utilization Center at Robinson Station.

Carroll Fackler, UK forestry research specialist, began the program several years ago as a recruitment tool for the Hazard Community and Technical College's forestry program, which was based at UK's Robinson Station. High school juniors and seniors competed in forestry-related competitions for the chance to win one of nine scholarships to the school. While that partnership ended, many area 4-H agents remembered the competitions and asked Fackler if he would consider revamping the program for youth. This is the second year for the program under the new format.

He said young people do not realize forest industries are one of the top industries in the state and vital to the economy of eastern Kentucky, which largely depends on natural resources, such as coal and forestry, to generate income.

"If you're not connected to some of those industries, you may not be able to work in your community," Fackler said.

The day includes an assortment of contests, demonstrations and information for youths ages 9 to 18. Young people from area 4-H clubs, FFA and agriculture classes compete in events ranging from compass and pacing to wood identification. Two new events, soil judging and identification of invasive plants in Kentucky's forests, were added this year. Fackler said these additions keep the program up to date with changes in the industry and meet the needs of the state. Youths can submit individual and team woodworking projects for judging. Also, there will be hands-on demonstrations, games and prizes.

The Kentucky Forest Industries Association and its members sponsor a $500 UK College of Agriculture scholarship to the individual who accumulates the most points in the competitions. This scholarship is not limited to forestry and can be applied to any department in the college.

"We have a fun filled day," he said. "You do not have to compete in all the events, but if you want to win the scholarship, the chances of getting that would be better if you did enter all of the events."

Fackler said the program not only exposes young people to the industry, but also provides a chance for industry members to learn about the skills area youths possess. He said during the event some companies actually have paid for college and hired participants who possessed desirable skills and qualities needed in the forest industry.

Representatives from major and area forestry companies will be on hand to speak with students during the event about careers in forestry and ways the industry affects their lives. Grant Curry, wood procurement manager for Weyerhaeuser, and Bob Bauer, executive director of the Kentucky Forest Industries Association said both of their organizations have participated in the event since it began.

"The event exposes them to a field that they may not hear or know much about," Bauer said. "Even if they aren't interested in pursuing a career in the forest industry, the event still educates them on the field's importance to the state."

"The kids are prepped," Curry said. "They come knowing they are going to compete against some of the state's top youth and best (high) schools for forestry."

During his work with the 4-H forestry program over the years, Curry said he has seen several youths from eastern Kentucky develop an interest in the field, attend UK or Hazard Community and Technical College to study forestry and get a job in the industry upon graduation.

While this program is in eastern Kentucky, Fackler said individuals from other areas of the state who are interested in forestry and the program are invited to participate. For more information on Win With Wood, contact Carroll Fackler at 606-666-2438, ext. 235 or visit the UK Wood Utilization Center's Web site at http://www.ukwoodcenter.net.

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