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Needs Assessment of Forestry Professional Development in Wisconsin

Professionals who engage in continuing education are better prepared to make confident and well-informed contributions to their discipline. With a desire to inform the development of more relevant, valuable, and accessible professional development, the Wisconsin Forestry Center designed and administered a Wisconsin forestry training needs assessment survey in spring 2023. The research objectives were to identify:

  • Current skill gaps and training preferences of forestry-related professionals in Wisconsin.
  • Barriers preventing training participation.
  • Training outcomes that motivate training engagement.


A survey composed of 39 questions designed to address the research objectives was dispersed through an online platform, Qualtrics, and as hard copies at the 2023 Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association Spring Celebration. Surveys were sent to professionals across Wisconsin in forest management, forest products, operations, utility vegetation management, urban and municipal forestry, wildland fire, and arboriculture employment areas.



  • Skill Gaps vs Desirable Topics. The study revealed some disparity between what people want to learn about and what educational needs exist. Training providers may consider exploring how they can address workforce development needs while also appealing to the personal interests of those pursuing training.
  • Notifying Training Participants. Lack of awareness of training opportunities was a significant barrier to participation. Training providers could strategically schedule and provide more notification about opportunities to maximize attendance. Professional organizations in Wisconsin may consider collaborating on a comprehensive resource of training opportunities, as respondents indicated they would pursue more training if there was a statewide forestry professional development calendar.
  • Gaining Employer Buy-In. Consistent with past research findings, respondent workload has posed a significant barrier to training participation. Training providers may consider how they can better demonstrate the value and relevance of their training programs to gain employer buy-in. This might look like clearly defining learning objectives or demonstrating predictable operational or financial results.


  • Zoe Kaminsky, Graduate Research Assistant, Wisconsin Forestry Center
  • Les Werner, Professor of Forestry and Director of the Wisconsin Forestry Center, UW-Stevens Point