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Planning for takeover

Oct. 13, 2016 - We now have numbers to confirm what is well known in the industry: Canada’s logging workforce is aging. Our 2016 survey of logging contractors found that in almost all provinces, the under 35 demographic makes up between eight and 18 per cent of workers, whereas the 56 or older demographic makes up between 23 and 46 per cent. The scale is certainly tipped.

October 13, 2016  By  Maria Church

Those older loggers will soon be retiring, and will leave a gaping hole that will need to be filled quickly, ideally with young, trained and engaged personnel who will one day become leaders.

Perhaps more worrisome is that almost one third of the surveyed contractors report that they do not have a succession plan for their businesses. Sure, 27 per cent plan to sell the business to their offspring, 12 per cent to other contractors, and nine per cent to staff, but the final 22 per cent say they will auction their gear and close the operation.

Quebec, it seems, is the exception to all of these norms. The province is sitting comfortably with just 13 per cent of loggers older than 56, and the rest split almost evenly between 36-55 and under 35. Small, family business models perhaps explain why almost 40 per cent of the loggers there expect their children to take over after they retire (likely accounting for a large portion of the national number of 27 per cent).

So what is Quebec doing right, and why isn’t it being done elsewhere? Our survey, unfortunately, doesn’t give easy answers to complicated questions. We can only make inferences from the other survey results. Loggers in Quebec, in general, generate lower profits than their counterparts across Canada (save for Atlantic Canada where loggers report lower earnings), and work fewer hours comparably. Quebec logging companies are generally smaller, and operate fleets of less than six pieces of equipment. The smaller the company, and lower the expenses (gear, wages, and so on), the more likely it is that a young logger can afford to buy a company.


Here’s another inference: as the retiring logging workforce creates a vacuum of needed employees across Canada, it seems pretty likely that the trained, capable next generation will be coming from Quebec.

This is the first year we’ve conducted a survey of logging contractors in Canada, and so far we’ve gleaned a ton of information about the industry and its workers. (Find the survey highlights here and detailed reports here, or contact editorial director Scott Jamieson to chat about the results: sjamieson@annexweb.com.) It just so happens that we’re running our coverage of the survey in the same issue as our Top 10 under 40 feature. These standout employees, who are loggers, mill managers, accountants and scientists from across Canada, represent forestry’s next generation, and give a glimpse of what their age demographic can offer the industry.

A few themes run throughout the stories. For one, safety. Multiple nomination forms included details about how the candidate was safety focused, or developed a safe work culture. Another theme is hard work. Whether they’ve worked at a company for five years or 15, these under-40 employees work tirelessly to excel at their jobs, and it led to them progressing up the ranks.

It is now up to companies to reflect on what is behind these employees succeeding at a young age. Does your company promote safety, and have a clear progression plan that rewards employees who work hard?

While we at Canadian Forest Industries are doing our part to recognize these 10 leaders of tomorrow – this year we are sending out framed certificates to the Top 10 under 40 winners – it’s worth noting that employer recognition is an important cog in the job-satisfaction wheel. So, toast the 2016 Top 10 under 40 winners with us, and, if you don’t have one already, consider whether or not an employee recognition program would be the right fit for your jobsite.

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