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

USFS and Partners Meeting – Extended Notes on Challenges and Solutions


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

Summary: A continuous effort is needed to establish and maintain relationships with universities. It’s important to have information (brochure, social media, video) as well as field trips, swag, etc., available. University recruiters and career counselors should have information about FS jobs at their fingertips, and we should follow this up with personal recruiting. Recent hires may be able to reach current students through presentations. These presentations could be given for specific recruiting events, but 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 see where current student knowledge of FS is could be very helpful. There are a lot of students who, although they may not know about the FS, would be interested in what we have to offer, especially public and community service, ecological service, multiple-resource management, work/life balance, telework, and career development opportunities.

Key Points:

  • Overall goal: develop meaningful relationships
  • Develop meaningful informational marketing materials/brochures that emphasize the benefits of working for the FS
  • Develop a brand perception survey and use a focus group to determine what messages work best; Compare perceptions among different groups of students (junior vs senior, others)
  • FS staff and scientists need to increase interaction with students by being available to answer questions, lead field trips or labs, teach, make presentations, etc.
  • Ask recent grads that now work at the FS to return to universities and talk to students
  • FS needs provide information on jobs to university recruiters and career counselors

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

Summary: 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 posting, 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.

Key Points:

  • FS needs to communicate about jobs, including details like salary, when they’re going to be filled, etc., in advance to career services professionals at universities
  • FS needs to provide advance notice of hiring events and include details like dates and how students can find or get access
  • Universities need to help FS identify students we should reach out to – for example, students who recently had an internship and could help with peer to peer learning on how to use USAJobs
  • FS needs to have a presence on campuses, with FS staff visiting and talking to students about available jobs and the benefits
  • FS could produce short YouTube videos describing each new job opening and introducing the setting, existing team, benefits, etc., especially if these jobs do not show up in collective hiring events
  • FS should use Twitter to share job announcements with students

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

Summary: We need to create points of accountability in the USFS 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 USFS 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.)

Key Points:

  • We need to identify points of accountability at both the FS and universities: Who are our designated liaisons?
  • We need to increase the number of university faculty who have contact with FS and encourage more FS scientists to become adjunct professors (even if it’s just for one semester)
  • FS could tie in to existing meetings – annual cooperators meetings, conferences for educators in natural resources
  • FS needs to bring “cheerleader” employees (especially alumni) to university-sponsored events like summer programs, seminars, guest lectures, and volunteer events
  • Bring alumni back to share experiences with other students as a “Motivation Task Force”
  • Work together on local involvement at local chapter meetings of SAF, TWF, and others
  • FS needs to invite university scientists need to be guest scientists with USFS

Challenge 4. How can we recruit a diverse workforce?

Summary: 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.

Key Points:

  • We need to strengthen the University-to-FS Pipeline by investing in relationships, building and maintaining them, while addressing discontent
  • FS needs to work more closely with university recruiters and include recruiters and career counselors at future meetings
  • FS could consider convening university recruiters, FS staff, and 5-6 students from each institution
  • We need better data about this process and might consider bringing a demographer into the conversation to discuss the implications of the changing demographics of our country
  • We need to focus on executable things and try to make something actually happen

Learn more about working for the Forest Service →

For more information, email Monica Schwalbach at mschwalbach@fs.fed.us