STEVENS POINT – Working in the forestry industry is the only thing Violet Thielke ever want to do.

Growing up in Waupaca, Thielke was her dad’s “second hand” out in the woods, she said, operating and working on machines and whatever else needed to be done for their family-owned business, Thielke Forestry Products.

Now, at 23, Thielke works part-time with the Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association, after graduating in December from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with a degree in forest management and a minor in business administration. She also owns the family business after her dad, Michael Thielke, died last year.

Violet Thielke said she isn’t exactly sure what she plans to do next, but she knows she wants to keep working in the forestry industry every day.

“One week you’re standing in a woods that isn’t optimal or isn’t ideal,” Thielke said, “and in a couple of weeks … as soon as the harvest is done that you helped with, it’s a completely different thing. You’ve changed something … in most cases, you know that it’s for the better.”

Les Werner hopes that a new program will help more people discover the same passion that Thielke has.

This summer, the Wisconsin Forestry Center at UW-Stevens Point launched its Forest Industry Workforce Recruitment and Development Initiative, with $8 million from the state through the Workforce Innovation Grant. Over the next couple of years, K-12 students and adults will be able to participate in hands-on programs and explore careers in Wisconsin’s forestry industry, said Werner, the center’s director.

[Adapted from: This 23-year-old is among those working Wisconsin’s forests. Here’s how the industry is fighting shortages. September 12, 2022 Appleton Post Crescent]