LTCC Forestry & Fire Programs Receive Funding for Student Scholarships, Equipment

August 9, 2022

photo of Forestry workers, provided by the California Tahoe ConservancyLake Tahoe Community College’s (LTCC) new Forestry program will launch this Fall quarter with generous scholarships in place for participating students, thanks to a grant from the Tahoe Fund. The Lake Tahoe Basin Fire Academy at LTCC is also receiving grant funding from the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation for required gear and equipment purchases, allowing even more students to be able to participate in the program.

Both of these academic programs support critical fire mitigation and treatment work in the broader Western United States and regionally, where extended and increasingly dangerous wildfire seasons necessitate a significantly larger and specifically skilled workforce. Over the next five years, forestry management occupations are projected to have more than 200 annual job openings in the greater Sacramento region alone. Approximately 76% of these jobs will be for middle- and high-skilled occupations. California community colleges like LTCC are a big part of the plan to prepare this educated, crucial workforce of the future.

Tahoe Fire & Fuels Team Incident Commander Chief Isaac Powning said, “These programs will increase a much needed educated and skilled workforce within Tahoe to assist our overall mission to protect lives, property, and environment by implementing fuels reduction projects and engaging the public in becoming Fire Adapted Communities. Increasing this workforce is vital to maintain our momentum and improve efforts in preventing and reducing the effects of catastrophic wildfires.” 

LTCC was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation’s (TTCF) Forest Futures program to offset expensive equipment and gear costs for student-cadets in the Fire Academy at LTCC. Forest Futures is a three-year, $30 million comprehensive playbook that can be replicated by other communities to align local organizations around minimizing the risk of extreme wildfires through better preparation, investment in forest health and infrastructure, workforce development, and the diversification of local economies. In addition to the grant, Forest Futures engaged the League of California Community Foundations to join in a state-wide collaboration at the California State Fair to promote “Careers Among the Trees,” an exhibit that features career paths into forest management and fire mitigation. 

“There is much to do, but we need people to do the work,” said Stacy Caldwell, CEO of TTCF. “We are delighted to partner with LTCC to encourage the next generation of forest workers to meet the demand. Our workforce development grants and collaborative efforts seek to solve persistent labor shortages by training people with the skills necessary to fight fires and plan and implement forest health projects.”

The Tahoe Fund, a nonprofit organization that supports environmental improvement projects in the Tahoe Basin, will provide $1,000 scholarships for each and every student majoring in the new program. In order to receive this free funding, which will cover the majority of tuition, students must be registered in a minimum of five units per quarter of related coursework in Fall, Winter, and/or Spring quarters. In addition, students are required to maintain at least a 2.5 grade point average. Scholarship funding will automatically be disbursed to eligible students in three quarterly checks.

“The Tahoe Fund’s top priority is forest health, and one of our greatest needs is getting more skilled professionals into our forests,” explained Tahoe Fund Board Member John Jones. “By providing scholarships for every student in LTCC’s new Forestry program, we are one step closer to strengthening this understaffed workforce that will make our forests healthier and help prevent wildfires.”

“LTCC is focused on providing students with an affordable path to college completion,” said LTCC Superintendent/President Jeff DeFranco. “These scholarships, combined with our Promise program, financial aid, and other programs, will help Forestry and Fire students graduate and move directly into employment in the field with little to no college debt.”

The Tahoe Fund’s mission is to use the power of philanthropy to improve the Lake Tahoe environment for all to enjoy. One of the organization’s main strategic goals is to improve forest health by driving innovative solutions to increase the pace and scale of forest restoration in the Tahoe Basin through its Smartest Forest Fund.

LTCC’s Forestry program launches for the first time this Fall, offering students the ability to earn an Associate of Science degree along with an Employable Skills certificate and a Certificate of Achievement. Students can earn the stackable certificates on their way toward earning the AS degree. All of these credentials can be completed in two years with full-time college attendance.

Students will also be awarded with industry recognized credentials as they proceed through the curriculum, preparing them for a number of employment opportunities that require certain testing and credentialing to be eligible for hire. With the AS degree in hand, LTCC Forestry program graduates can expect to see an average salary of $22 per hour in a starting position.

Students will leave the program prepared for employment with local, state, and federal natural resource agencies, capable of assisting with forest management, planning, and implementation work. Some potential Tahoe-based employers include: CAL FIRE, the USDA Forest Service, the California Tahoe Conservancy, the Tahoe Resource Conservation District, private forestry contractors, and other agencies that are part of the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team.