Canada’s forest industry is a dynamic and vibrant sector of the economy and more recently its outlook has improved considerably. There is one challenge the industry continues to face and that is the prospect of filling tens of thousands of new jobs from a shrinking and aging talent pool.
While the industry may have turned one corner, right around the next bend awaits the next test. The Forest Products Association of Canada estimates that we will need to fill about 60,000 new jobs in the forest products industry over the next eight years.
Stu Dornbierer, co-chair, Daishowa-Marubeni International Ltd., was recently quoted in the national press commenting that the aging workforce is leaving some significant gaps to fill. “The demographic glacier is not at a creep anymore,” he said. “It’s accelerating and we’re starting to see the effects now. When I meet colleagues, it’s alarming how many are ready to retire.”
On a broader scale, a recent PwC survey of global forest products CEOs found that a third of these leaders feel that a dearth of talented individuals is limiting their company’s ability to innovate. That this was happening when the industry was supposedly in a soft labour market is not lost on the more forward-looking of our industry leaders.
Some have already taken up the challenge. In Alberta, the response to the need for new recruits can be seen in the Alberta Forest Products Association’s Work Wild program, which is aimed at exposing young Albertans to the variety of meaningful careers in forestry.
In two years of leading the program, the AFPA’s Cam Rollins has brought Work Wild to more than 21,000 students, teachers and other Albertans in classrooms, career fairs and trade shows. It seems the Work Wild message – that jobs in the forest sector offer opportunity for career growth and diversity as well as a rewarding lifestyle – may be hitting home with Alberta’s youth. Post-secondary enrolment in forestry programs has soared in the past two years. Since 2010, qualified applicants for NAIT’s forestry program have nearly doubled and enrolment in the University of Alberta’s forestry program has quadrupled.
Top 20 Under 40
For our part, we want to help encourage the strength and development of the youngest generation of the current forest industry workforce. Canadian Forest Industries magazine is pleased to announce the launch of our Top 20 Under 40 program, which will be featured in our September/October 2013 edition. The national program will celebrate 20 people from across Canada, under the age of 40, who are leading the next generation of the forestry industry. From mechanics and technological innovators to equipment operators and managers, we will look at 20 individuals who are making a difference in this industry. We will look not only at what they are doing to drive the success of their own company, but also at steps they are taking to promote the industry as a whole. They are the future of our industry, and we want to share stories of the incredible work being done across Canada by these individuals.
Look to www.woodbusiness.ca, our weekly e-news, and the Jan/Feb issue of Canadian Forest Industries for more information, sponsorship opportunities and nomination procedures.
While slightly outside of our initiative’s maximum age limit, the subjects of this month’s cover story (page 10) are prime examples of what we hope to celebrate. Co-owners of Vancouver Island’s Lemare Lake Logging, Eric and Chris Dutcyvich have taken their family business and the knowledge passed down from the last generation – namely their father Dave – and built one of the largest logging and roadbuilding contractors in the province.
Similarly, Russ Vaagen of Vaagen Fibre Canada represents the next generation of the sawmilling sector, someone who is looking not just at his own company’s future, but also at the shape of the industry as a whole. You can read about this company’s first foray into the Canadian sector on page 27.
Finding Gen Next is indeed a challenge and it won’t be easy to replace so many skilled workers across a variety of disciplines. But with the proper education, leadership initiatives and industry co-operation, Canada will continue to develop and encourage a new generation of forest industry professionals, all the while enhancing its position as a leader on the world stage.
John Tenpenny, Editor