University and US Forest Service Partners Meeting: Recruiting our next generation of leaders

University and FS Partners Meeting

How can we increase awareness of Forest Service and University programs? How can we reach students to tell them about careers in the FS? What are today’s students seeking?

Representatives from 12 southeastern universities gathered at the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) headquarters in Asheville, NC to discuss these questions. They were joined by executives, researchers, foresters, human resources professionals, and others from SRS and the Southern Region.

Connecting Students with FS Jobs: Four Challenges and Potential Solutions

The group discussed four primary challenges and brainstormed a number of potential solutions. This material represents a flow of ideas and information during the meeting and does not comprise or imply an action plan. Read the full version of the notes →

Challenge 1: How can we communicate the benefits of working with the FS?

A continuous effort is needed to establish and maintain relationships with universities. It’s important to have information about the FS and about specific jobs available to university recruiters and career counselors. The FS should follow this up with personal recruiting. Recent hires may be able to reach current students by speaking at recruiting events, and the benefits of working for the FS should also be built into other aspects of campus life. Developing a branding survey or focus group to assess students’ knowledge and perceptions of the FS could be very helpful. There are many students who, although they may not know about the FS, may be interested in what we have to offer, such as public and community service, ecological service, multiple-resource management, work/life balance, telework, and career development opportunities.

Challenge 2: How can we help students effectively navigate the hiring process?

The FS needs to communicate with university career services professionals so that they are aware of the opportunities available to students. These communications can take the form of short YouTube videos describing recent job postings, tweets, in-person training events, and email announcements. University career professionals can help the FS identify the students who would excel at the FS, and these students can potentially participate in peer to peer learning projects that will introduce additional students to the FS.

Challenge 3: How can we resolve the disconnect between universities and the FS?

We need to create points of accountability in the FS and universities, and enforce the role faculty and staff have as links to the Forest Service. We should take advantage of and create opportunities to bring FS reps – especially alumni – into university forums. Shared office space is a good first step but must be supplemented with actions that cause people to interact (such as orientation classes, professional club meetings, Summer Programs hosted on R&D and NF sites, etc.). Increase FS visibility through digital connections and swag, and create more opportunities for cross-fertilization (such as job shadows, details, visiting scientists, guest lectures.)

Challenge 4: How can the FS recruit a diverse workforce?

Both the FS and universities need to reach students while they’re young. There are many reasons to work with young people in ways that will enhance their appreciation of the natural world and perhaps guide them towards careers in natural resources, and especially with the FS. We also need to strengthen, expand upon, and maintain the relationships between FS and universities. Future meetings such as this one would be valuable, and these meetings should include recruiters, career counselors, and if possible, university students. In addition, we need to monitor the effectiveness of these actions and should consider involving a demographer and developing surveys.

Next Steps: Commitment to Action

Many of the solutions to the four challenges involve building and maintaining relationships. The conversation between the FS and universities is ongoing. Identifying ways universities and the FS can work together more closely may help bring interested students closer to an FS career that would allow them to serve their communities by sustaining the health, diversity, and productivity of our nation’s forests and grasslands.


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Recruiting our Next Generation of Leaders

Rick Lint, Forest Supervisor, Francis Marion & Sumter National Forest
Gerry Jackson, Assistant Director, Southern Research Station

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(PowerPoint; 2.7 MB)
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National Collective Hiring & Recruiting / Pathways Program

David Torok, R8 Lead Regional Recruiter
Ibis Dawson, Human Resources Specialist

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(PowerPoint; 70 MB)


Meeting discussions were recorded and are available for on-demand viewing.


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