£1bn Scottish forestry sector seeks new entrants
Scotland’s £1 billion forestry sector needs more students to undertake industry-specific training and degree courses to maintain the sector’s economic prominence.
With excellent career opportunities, forestry leaders say the industry is working hard to promote a wide range of employment options.
The Crown Estate in Scotland and Confor, the UK’s forest industry body, said that more efforts are going into attracting people into apprenticeships and degree courses. In recent months a number of higher education institutions have considered dropping courses due to lack of interest. This includes Aberdeen University, which offers the only forestry degree programme in Scotland.
The Crown Estate’s Head of Countryside Management, Andy Wells, said the issue was not limited to Scotland, although the industry was proportionally more important to the Scottish economy.
“The forestry industry offers excellent opportunities for people with a wide range of skills and interests whether you are looking for practical outdoor work or a challenging career involving technical woodland management, scientific research, marketing, recreation, conservation, policy and sustainable land management. It is vital to the future of Scotland’s forestry industry that new entrants come through recognised training routes. Forestry is a primary industry which thrives when sustainable management principles combine with land management and business acumen, and there is a high level of skill involved.”
In Scotland The Crown Estate manages around 5,000 hectares of commercial forest, across four rural estates. The industry provides significant additional benefits to the
rural communities surrounding its estates, helping to support fragile rural economies and delivering a wide range of environmental, landscape and recreational benefits for local communities and the general public.
“The Crown Estate has worked with industry bodies and contributed to training programmes across the entire span of education. One such initiative is Forests for the Future, a teaching resource which we developed in partnership with a range of bodies including Forestry Commission Scotland and the ‘Grown in Britain’ forest industry initiative. The pack is designed for use in primary schools and helps teachers develop pupils’ greater understanding and knowledge of the forest industry and the role trees and woods can play in combating climate change.”
An industry working group, the Forestry Learning and Development Group, has been set up to try and reinvigorate interest in forestry careers in the UK. This cross sector group involves a range of educational institutions, the Institute of Chartered Foresters, Forestry Commission and forest businesses. Steve Fowkes, who leads the group said: “The Forestry Learning & Development Group works hard to ensure that the growing opportunities offered by the forest industry are taken up by a new generation of skilled and motivated workers. The Crown Estate’s Forests for the Future resource is an excellent example of how to motivate and educate those new generations at an early age, and without them the economic, social and environmental benefits of forestry may not be maximised.”
Dougal Driver, CEO of Grown in Britain, said: “We are driving demand for homegrown products through our distinctive logo on assured wood products from well managed forests such as those owned by the Crown Estate across Britain. This demand improves our woodlands for all and creates more jobs and career opportunities in a dynamic and growing sector. Through our collaborative work on Forests for the Future resource we are working with a partnership to engage people of all ages in the technical, engineering, professional and scientific career opportunities that exist in the Forestry sector – the best work environment you could get!”
Stuart Goodall, chief executive of Confor said: “Recent Government figures show that there has been significant growth in forestry and wood processing employment in Scotland, but there is also concern about an ageing workforce. The industry is in many ways a hidden success story as it offers a wide range of skilled and rewarding jobs across Scotland, within a sector that has real potential for further growth.”
The learning resources are all available at www.forestsforthefuture.co.uk. Teachers can use a filter to help with lesson planning and link each unit with specific curriculum requirements.
The Crown Estate works on a commercial basis, taking a balanced approach to ensuring its assets are managed effectively and sustainably at all times. As part of that long-term commercial approach, the business invests in stewardship and educational activities to help maintain the value of the estate and build strong links with local communities.