New position will help equip students for career success
February 15, 2019
Integrity. A team player. Strong communication skills. Work ethic and commitment. These traits and skills are what Ken Morgan values the most in an employee and what he hopes to instill in students graduating from the College of Natural Resources and Environment.
Morgan and his son, John, own Morgan Lumber Company, a family-owned business based in Charlotte County, Virginia. Since it was founded in 1939 by Ken’s grandfather, the company has grown from six employees producing 400,000 board-feet of lumber annually to 105 employees producing 80 million board-feet.
Morgan, who recognizes the importance of keeping pace with the competition, is funding a new director of employer relations position in the college. It will be part of the college’s efforts to better link the forestry and forest products sector with Virginia Tech, community colleges, and high school students, fostering awareness of employment needs and opportunities in the sector and, ultimately, ensuring a sustainable forest industry in Virginia and beyond.
“Atlanta Hardwood Corporation has been recruiting interns and graduates from the College of Natural Resources and Environment for over 20 years. Thanks to Ken Morgan’s generous support, we will now have a point person to coordinate intern interviews, facilitate faculty introductions, and arrange campus visits.”
—Jim Howard, CEO, Atlanta Hardwood Corporation
“Ken Morgan has always believed that it is all about the people and the relationships, both in a business sense and in his leadership within the forestry sector in Virginia,” said Dean Paul Winistorfer. “Ken’s high professional standards, conviction to sustainability, and long-standing generosity demonstrate how an individual and a business care about people and the future of Virginia and our country.”
“Ken is always helping me be better and see the bigger picture,” Winistorfer continued. “The director of employer relations position will be a cornerstone and a linkage for the college, our students, and the forestry sector, as well as a testament to the vision and goodwill of Ken Morgan and Morgan Lumber Company.”
Morgan reflected on the beginnings of his almost-30-year relationship with Virginia Tech and how his organization has benefitted. “I realized if we were going to prosper in business, I had to seek the cooperation of people with strong training and vision in the forest industry.”
One of those people was John Hosner, head of Virginia Tech’s then School of Forestry and Wildlife Resources, who was seeking partnerships and support from industry leaders to establish what would become the college. Hosner became a mentor to Morgan and initiated a partnership with him that ultimately led to the hiring of Virginia Tech graduates. These employees helped propel Morgan Lumber into the high-tech era of lumber manufacturing and possessed the personal traits and leadership skills that have defined the company’s success.
These same skills continue to be sought in today’s graduates. The director of employer relations position, which has initially been funded for three years, will be instrumental in developing contacts and partnerships with industry professionals in order to create the hands-on learning opportunities that are critical in preparing students for the job market. These experiences include classroom visits, tours of facilities, career counseling and assistance, and internships.
The director of employer relations will have another area of focus that is a priority for Morgan — helping to recruit students from Southwest and Southside Virginia who are interested in returning to find employment in the region after graduation. According to Morgan, this area, known as the wood basket of Virginia, has the resources needed to support a strong timber industry.
These sentiments are echoed by Winistorfer, who said, “The forestry and forest products sector is the third largest industry in the state, generating over $21 billion a year and providing 107,000 jobs. As the largest land-grant university in Virginia, it’s our responsibility to produce top-quality graduates to enter these amazing jobs.”
Winistorfer anticipates that the new position will create a pipeline of graduates who are well-prepared with the technical know-how demanded by this high-tech industry and the people skills and work ethic that are so valued by Morgan. “The position will help us all be more successful and demonstrate Virginia Tech’s role in the commonwealth through our land-grant heritage and mission,” he added.