CIC - Fall 2019

Much More Than Hewers of Wood


From the woodlot to the lab, career options are growing in Forestry

Wes Van Camp, TFT is a Trainee Forest Technologist in the Forest Technology Entry Level Program for BC Timber Sales. He explains what drew him to a career in forestry, “Forestry initially grabbed me as a way to not be stuck behind a desk 24/7. Within the field of forestry I saw professionals who were active, hiking in the bush all day while still performing high level mental problem solving and management. I wanted the opportunity to be both physically and mentally active.”

The forestry trade includes logging, timber trade, and the production of forestproducts, timber/lumber, primary forest and wood products like furniture and secondary products like wood pulp for the pulp and paper industry.

“There are a wide variety of jobs available. Mill workers, loggers, heavy machinery operators, tree planters, silviculture surveyors, timber cruisers, log truck drivers, brushing contractors, registered forest technologists, and registered professional foresters make up the core of the forestry sector but there are many other jobs that involve forestry in different ways as well”, explains Van Camp.

Employment within the industry is also offered in the areas of mill operation (crane operators, lumber graders, logging machinery operators, etc.), sciences and engineering (biologists, electrical, chemical, civil and mechanical engineers, etc.), administration and skilled trades (carpenters, mechanics, welders, electricians, etc.).

Van Camp adds, “Forest professionals – jobs requiring registration and membership to a professional association and are involved with the higher-level planning – are the most in demand currently. As more of the forested land base is being shared with other resources and user groups, as well as the oncoming changes that climate change is bringing, it is imperative that we have enough qualified people to manage these increasingly complex scenarios.”

In 2016, Canadian exports of this valuable commodity were $29.5 billion, with exports of lumber, sawmill and millwork products and pulp and paper accounting for most of the sales.

“Forestry is a huge driver in small town economies all over Canada, but especially in BC. The jobs created by the mills and their associated harvesting and forest management companies, as well as the forest professionals backing those operations can be the backbone of entire towns,” states Van Camp. “The number of jobs and the variety of skill levels needed to perform these jobs – from high school graduation to university degree – make the forestry sector an important keystone in all social classes.”

Strict forest laws in Canada protect woodlands and maintain and promote sustainable forest management practices.

Van Camp says, “Industry and government alike are introducing and enforcing best practice management which promotes sustainable and economic forestry. The public has voiced how important sustainable forestry is and there is significant effort being made to become more and more sustainable. Forest professionals have both by mandate of their association, and by their own moral and ethical conscience a duty to protect the lands and manage them responsibly. These people are leading the charge towards greater sustainability through their actions and decision making. Additionally, legislation is being updated to ensure that the forestry industry is held accountable to be environmentally and economically sustainable.”

The industry employed 205,660 Canadians in 2016 and provided a total income of about $16 billion, and Van Camp believes the future looks bright.

“The demand for forest professionals will continue to grow; especially as the baby boom generation continues to retire, creating lots of opportunities for employment”, he says. “Some areas in forestry will see a decrease in job potential. As mills become more high tech and self-sufficient there will be less need for human involvement, meaning less jobs. Overall I believe that the forestry industry will continue to be a large player in providing jobs in Canada.”

The industry appeals to potential employees for many different reasons.

“Forestry is a great way to get away from the stereotypical 9-5 desk job. It is a dynamic career that involves constantly adapting to new situations. Forestry allows you to be both physically and mentally challenged. The job also allows you to create and retain a connection with nature and uphold sustainable and environmentally responsible ideals,” says Van Camp. “With so many aspects to forestry it is possible to dip your toes in without fully committing to see if you want to make a career in forestry. Try a summer of bush work (tree planting, surveying, etc.) and if you like it continue on with further education. Forestry occurs all around Canada but a large portion of forestry happens in small towns. Be prepared to spend some time in small towns or camp work. That being said there are opportunities everywhere.”

By Jackie Fritz