YELP and the Next Generation of Lumber Leaders

From the October issues of BPD and Merchant Magazines. 

The forest products industry is deeply intertwined with experiences and traditions that span generations. Passed down over decades, these established approaches are what inspire the next generation to ensure the continued success of our industry. Looking ahead, how can we embrace future leadership, and the perspectives that emerging professionals can share?

In 2018, the NAWLA Board of Directors appointed a task force to create the Young Emerging Lumber Professionals (YELP) program. With a vision of representing the modern professional in the lumber trade, YELP members are male and female, employed by various company types within the supply chain, and work across the spectrum of business and production roles. The program is competitive – the inaugural call for nominations received more than 150 qualified nominations, which were then whittled down to the inaugural 40-member cohort. Bringing together these individuals from every facet of the business, YELP is sparking an exciting conversation surrounding the young changemakers and trailblazers in our industry.

Below, class of 2019-2020 member Jared Priestley, Cedar Specialist at Plateau Forest Products, shares his perspective on the past, present, and future of the lumber trade.

Q: Are you first generation in the forest products industry?

Jared Priestley (JP): I grew up as the son of a general contractor and framer in Southern Oregon, so my family has always been directly tied to the forest products industry. 

Q: Why did you apply to YELP?

JP: I’ve always been one to jump in and get involved, and YELP creates a great opportunity to meet other young people in the forest products industry who are outside of my company. Being exposed to other perspectives provides unparalleled value, and the ability to network and learn from others is not to be taken for granted. As I continue to explore YELP opportunities, I look forward to expanding my knowledge and experience in the industry, while offering my insight on challenges that I face in my immediate circle. I’m excited to meet others in the field, and establish valuable relationships this early in my career.

Q: As a YELP-er, what are you hoping to learn?

JP: I hope to gain more education in what is happening in markets that we are not yet involved in. With so much opportunity in our industry, it’s always exciting to get a pulse on the next market trend. I think there will also be a number of individuals with more experience than I have, so there will be valuable mentorship and career advice to be had. 

Q: Traders Market is the intersection of emerging professionals and industry veterans. What opportunity does this create?

JP: This will be my first year attending Traders Market, but I’m looking forward to learning about other industry issues, and how those issues relate to those that immediately affect our company. With an expanding group of young people entering the forest products industry, it’s important to be involved in discussions that impact our future. Traders Market serves as the perfect platform to start the dialogue.   

Q: How will the forest products industry evolve in the next five years?

JP: Over the next five years, the industry will be most impacted by the new forms of communication brought on by advances in technology and social media. That will be the major driver of information exchange in the forest products industry. 

To learn more about the Young Emerging Lumber Professionals program and view the class roster, visit

Recent Stories
What to Watch For in 2022: Regulatory/Compliance

Surviving The Great Resignation

How to Parlay a Pandemic