Loading logs properly on a job site takes skill and a sense of direction, which is what the Logging Equipment Operator Academy at Hinds Community College is giving to its first round of students.
“I got a call from Adult Education, as they helped me with financial aid after I completed my high school equivalency,” said Scott Burnett, 22, of Raymond, who worked at a fitness outlet for a while before coming to the program. “They mentioned it and it sounded interesting, so I’m trying my hand at it.”
From left, Scott Burnett, instructor Wayne Withers, Andrew Wicker and Devin Campbell
The Hinds Logging Equipment Operator Academy is a partnership with the Mississippi Loggers Association and Mississippi Forestry Commission that began this past fall semester with its first group of students. The 16-week program is designed to train those with little or no experience to become logging equipment operators with all necessary safety certifications and the Professional Logging Manager (PLM) status.
Devin Campbell and Andrew Wicker are also completing the course this fall. Both had a bit of familiarity with the business and are looking to parlay their new skills into solid careers.
“I’ve had some family members work in logging, plus I love the outdoors and woods,” said Campbell, 19, of Jackson. “I want to try to work with someone at first, but then I want to open my own company doing this.”
Using the knuckleboom, Devin Campbell loads logs onto a trailer as part of field work at the Logging Equipment Operator Academy.
Learning of the program from friends of family impressed Wicker enough to commute more than an hour from Smithdale, in southwest Mississippi, to take the class. He had worked manual labor gigs on farms before coming to the program.
“A cousin of mine had a logging crew a few years ago, so I was a little bit familiar with heavy equipment,” he said. “I plan on using this to find a better job.”
The course begins with classroom instruction at the Ted Kendall III Agricultural Complex on Seven Springs Road in Raymond and includes forestry concepts, logging safety and basic business concepts specific to logging, plus sessions on a video simulator. It also familiarizes the student with heavy equipment integral to the industry, such as skidders, feller-bunchers, loaders, dozers and graders.
Students then do field work a few miles from campus at the Mississippi Forestry Commission’s training grounds to reinforce the classroom training and operate actual equipment on a work site. Earnings potential for logging equipment operators is about $23 an hour.
Instructor Wayne Withers assists a student aboard the knuckleboom loader.
Instructor Wayne Withers looks forward to the program’s growth in 2022.
“We will be adding more simulators and other equipment for the program next year,” Withers said. “All my guys right now are doing well and should make good loggers.”
The program is funded by a $1.3 million Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities (WORC) grant by the U.S. Department of Labor and Delta Regional Authority.