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Forestry student wins skills award for aboriginal youth

January 9, 2014, Edmonton, Alta. - The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) has awarded the second annual Skills Award for Indigenous Youth to Shayna Mason, a student in the Forestry Program at the University of Alberta.

The $2,500 award is targeted at youth from 18 to 30 who are enrolled in an apprenticeship program, college or in university, who are a First Nations, Métis or Inuit individual with strong academic standing, and who are committed to their field of study and a career in the revitalized forest sector.

"Shayna's love of forestry and strong sense of responsibility to the Aboriginal Community is testimony to the positive direction our industry is taking," says David Lindsay, president and CEO of FPAC. "The forest products industry currently employs about 17,000 Aboriginal workers, making it the largest employer of First Nations individuals. Under Vision2020, FPAC has committed to hiring more Indigenous workers, and Shayna represents an emerging aboriginal youth conscious of how their unique perspective and intimate knowledge of the land can only strengthen our industry and its commitment to responsible and sustainable practice."

Mason, who is a member of the Gitxaala Nation in Kitkatla, British Columbia, also sits on the Executive of the U of A Forest Society and is a student member of the Canadian Institute of Forestry (CIF). She gained an interest in forestry while pursuing a Finance degree at the University of Northern British Columbia, as she spent her summers planting trees. "I soon realized that I had a passion for forestry," says Mason. After working three years in finance, she decided to change careers and pursue her dream of becoming a forester. "I want to honour the spirit of past forestry leaders while trying to adapt to a changing industry and environment."

"Shayna immediately struck me as an engaged and enthusiastic student," says Alex Drummond, coordinator of the Forestry program at U of A. "Not only has she excelled academically, she is always willing to assist those a little less confident or experienced. She is an advocate and role model – a true community leader."

The Youth Award builds on the joint FPAC-AFN Business Leadership Award, which has been awarded four times. It recognizes and celebrates Indigenous entrepreneurs for success in a forest products business that exemplifies business leadership, exceptional environmental and safety performance and the delivery of high-quality products and services.

Vision2020 is aimed at creating more innovative products from wood, further improving the industry's environmental reputation and hiring an additional 60,000 workers. This will include recruiting more entrepreneurs and skilled workers in rural forestry communities including Indigenous youth. About 17,000 Indigenous people now work in the forest products industry, the most of any sector.

January 9, 2014  By  Andrew Macklin

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