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PCC to offer free certificate programs in wildfire mitigation and forestry

Pueblo Community College’s registration for its no-cost wildfire mitigation and forestry programs will open March 11. (Journal file photo)
These programs will accept 20 students, with enrollment opening on March 11

Starting this year, Pueblo Community College Southwest will offer two no-cost certificate programs in forestry and wildfire mitigation and natural resources, with registration opening on March 11 on a first-come, first-serve basis.

According to PCC, the programs were made possible by a $429,140 Forestry and Wildfire Mitigation Workforce Development grant that was awarded to the college by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.

“It’s all about wildland fire mitigation, and these programs are going to be covered while the funding lasts under the Colorado Career Advance Funding,” Regional Director of Academic Services Perry Pepper told The Journal. “Students apply, enroll and they’ll complete their FAFSA, and what that funding doesn’t cover Career Advance comes in and fills that gap, so it’s a zero-cost program at the end of the day for students.”

While these programs are open to both high school-aged students and older, only 20 students will be accepted into each program.

Through the Wildland Fire Academy, students can pursue an entry-level, wildland fire certificate or enroll in a two-semester certificate program in forestry and wildland fire.

The Wildland Fire Academy, while is a one-week course, will be held in Pagosa Springs during the first week of June. After their successful completion of the academy, students can apply for an incident qualification card, aka red card, or pursue a career as a junior wildland firefighter or member of a front-line fire crew.

Pepper shared that students will also have a chance to receive a chain saw credential following the fire mitigation program’s completion.

The next program to be offered, the forestry and wildland fire certificate program will be offered at the beginning of August, and the certification will “equip students to begin careers in areas such as logging, forest thinning operations, the forest product/timber industry and more.”

Pepper said that the “first course will be introductory to forestry,” with the plan to have a simulator later this year that will help train students to use forest harvesting equipment.

PCC explained that each curriculum offers hands-on practice and field experience in their program of choice, adding that students will also learn “essential workforce skills” such as communication, teamwork and critical thinking.

Other potential career paths that can be considered by students following the program’s completion include community engagement, conservation education and land stewardship positions.

PCC Southwest is also planning to offer a two-year degree in forestry and natural resources in the near future.

“This is a well-received and needed program in our region here in the southwest,” Pepper said. “There is a need for a program like this, so we’re excited to be part of it.”

Those who are interested in receiving additional information about the programs can contact Pepper at perry.pepper@pueblocc.edu or through phone at (970) 564-6205. Interested individuals can also contact Agriculture Program Coordinator Heather Houk via email at heather.houk@pueblocc.edu or (970) 564-6230.