By Mark LaFleur
Over the past 2 weeks, I have had the pleasure to travel throughout north-central BC and speak to many high school students and teachers about the BC Forest Industry. As the new Forest Education Manager, I have been enthusiastically welcomed by both students and teachers who seem very interested and curious about ‘Careers in Forestry’ and ‘The State of the BC Forest Industry in 2013’.
Students seem to be generally informed of the challenges that the BC Forest Industry face through social media. What they do not appear to know is how the BC Forest Industry is meeting these challenges and turning them into opportunities. Students seemed surprised with the numerous products being made by wood and their fibres. They are keen to know more about how we make bio products, how we are making energy, and how we can build tall buildings. They are generally surprised, enthusiastic and pleased when they learn about the direction the BC Forest Industry is taking. They definitely are beginning to understand that the Forest Industry is vital to the economy of BC, sustainable, resilient, and growingly diverse in the products that it produces.
When discussing the various ‘Careers in Forestry’ I have often been told by students that ‘I didn’t know that career was part of forestry’, ‘I didn’t know there was such a shortage of skilled labor’, ‘I didn’t know that forestry demanded such a high level of skill and training’, and ‘I didn’t know there was such a range of possible Careers’. The point I try to make to the students is that they can have one of these exciting careers if they have the proper training, skills, work ethic, and most importantly the right attitude and that the rewards of a Career in Forestry are endless. As explained to the students, Canadian forest companies will need to hire 60,000 or more new workers by 2020 to meet demand. Attracting the ‘best and brightest’ for those jobs will be of vital importance for the future prosperity of the BC Forest Industry. From what I have seen so far in my classroom visits is that the ‘best and brightest’ do exist and we need to continually attract them to our dynamic industry.