A green renewal
By Amie Silverwood
Oct. 28, 2013 - As markets recover, Canada’s forest industry is going through more than just growing pains. In many ways it’s reinventing itself from the ground up. Paper markets continue to struggle and sawmills continue to look for more profitable ways to use every part of the tree. The production of high value bio-energy, bio-chemicals and other bio-materials can help fund this renewal.
As consumers seek to replace their reliance on petrochemicals, forestry innovation can fill the gaps with a more sustainable and renewable industry. From new scanners to optimize the way logs are cut to new markets for sawmill and harvesting residues, solutions are being sought in our forests and laboratories. This is encouraging, but there is a more pressing demand than new technology. We urgently need a new generation to fuel this growth.
The unemployment rate for young Canadians has been rising steadily for years, and though many have found jobs, the jobs are low-paying and below their level of education. One in four millennials (the generation between the ages of 15 and 24) are underemployed in full-time work that doesn’t require the level of education they’ve attained, according to data from Statistics Canada. In many industries, it’s general practice to hire unpaid interns instead of paying and training new grads.
And yet there’s a shortage of young people working in forestry. This industry is faced with a greying workforce whose experience and skills cannot be learned in the classroom. The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) has set a target of recruiting 60,000 young people to renew the workforce by 2020 as millwrights, industrial engineers, foresters, electricians and heavy machine operators. But as the industry continues to find new uses for wood fibre, there’s also a need for more innovators, bio-chemists and high-tech specialists. Many young people are qualified and interested, but they need on-the-job experience, training and opportunities to put their skills to use making wood products.
Associations across the country are hosting education events and inviting forestry professionals into the classroom. I encourage you to take up the opportunity to reach out to young people and let them know about the job openings in the industry. And for those who are getting close to retirement, do what you can to pass your experience and knowledge on to someone looking for work.
At Canadian Forest Industries, we’re doing our part by highlighting the achievements of young workers with our top 20 under 40. We’ve found 20 exceptional young people who have made forestry their industry of choice and are forging their own path through the forest.
Though we made an effort to include a broad spectrum of individuals, you’ll notice we didn’t manage to find many young women, Aboriginals or new Canadians to include on our list. As an industry, we need to make an effort to attract a more diverse workforce. Diversity is the key to opening up new opportunities by extracting more value from every tree, improving our environmental footprint and reaching new markets. A rejuvenation of our workforce will bring fresh perspectives that will benefit the industry as a whole.
We did manage to find young people from across the country who have found opportunities and carved their own niches as industry leaders. I hope some of their stories inspire you to give a young person a chance in your business. We’ll all be rewarded in the years to come as younger workers bring new energy and ideas to an industry that has great potential for growth.
Our own changes
Canadian Forest Industries is undergoing its own changes with a clear plan in place to keep you informed about industry news and innovations. While I join the team as an editor new to the industry, I’ve been a trade magazine editor for six years covering a range of sectors. I also have a great team to back me up, including Andrew Macklin, who has experience in other heavy equipment markets, and Scott Jamieson, who has been in the forest industry for 30 years, almost 20 of those as editor of this magazine. I hope you’ll welcome me by sharing your thoughts and story ideas.
Amie Silverwood, Editor