A new program at Mississippi State University is helping forest products graduates find good jobs without leaving the state.
This fall, MSU's Department of Forest Products acting through the College of Forest Resources created four new emphasis areas within the forest products degree. This was done to expand the career field for its graduates.
"We created new options so forest products students could find good jobs in Mississippi, such as management positions in supply stores and manufacturing plants. Also, the curriculum meshes well with the junior college system," said Dan Seale, a forest products professor at MSU.
Cynthia West, department head, said the overall goal of the forest products major is to provide students with knowledge and skills about using wood resources more effectively and efficiently. Students apply what they learn in a variety of careers.
Majors previously had only two emphasis areas: wood industries management and wood materials science. This fall, the Department of Forest Products combined wood science and forest products curriculum with business and industrial technology skills to create new options.
"We wanted to give our students skills that make them very competitive for management positions in the forest products industry," West said.
Students may choose to emphasize forest products technology, forest products marketing, building supply operations or industrial environment, in addition to the two original options.
These new options cover areas that schools, including MSU, were not graduating students in, yet there were career opportunities available in these areas.
Seale said the forest products technology option teaches students how to program complex machinery and manage employees in factories, such as furniture plants.
"The forest products marketing option prepares students for the business world. They earn a minor in marketing, but they also take technical classes in forest products," Seale said.
Seale said the building supply operations option prepares students for managing small town or major chain building supplies stores through management and wood courses.
"Most manufacturing plants are required to have environmental compliance officers to make sure the production process does not harm the environment and that regulations set up by the Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency are being followed. Our industrial environmental option prepares students for this job," Seale said.
Seale said the four new options are spinoffs from the wood industries management option, which basically prepares students for management within the forest products industry.
He said the wood materials science option is the most difficult, and it is for students wanting to go to graduate school.
Kyle Fogarty, a senior forest products major emphasizing wood industries management, said the curriculum is preparing him for an entry-level position in a wood industry plant, but he hopes to move up to plant manager. He said he would have taken the forest products technology route had the new options been around when he started school four years ago.
"The technology option would have prepared me better for a technical background," Fogarty said.