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Forestry sector needs to build awareness, engagement with youth to address labour shortage

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February 3, 2023
By Talent Canada

Students in Timmins, Ont., learning about forest sector careers at Forestry Connects training. (CNW Group/Forests Ontario)

Industries across Canada are seeing a large portion of their workforce retire without the ability to replace them, and the forestry sector is no exception.

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the forestry sector is experiencing a labour force and skill shortage that is preventing the sector from realizing its full economic potential. If left unchecked, this shortage could negatively impact the socio-economic standing of hundreds of communities across the province of Ontario for years to come, according to a press release from Forest Ontario.

To address this issue, Forests Ontario and the Ontario Forest Industries Association (OFIA), with support from an advisory committee, collaborated on Bridging the Gap Between Ontario’s Youth & the Provincial Forest Sector, an Employment Ontario research project (known simply as Bridging the Gap) funded in part by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario.

“The forestry sector is faced with labour shortages across a variety of roles, and these are expected to increase over the next 5 to 10 years,” said Ian Dunn, president and CEO, Ontario Forest Industries Association. “We are seeing gaps and misconceptions that prevent some youth from considering a career in the industry, which is why the Bridging the Gap research is so important.”


Two primary objectives

The objectives of the Bridging the Gap research project were twofold. First, the project generated a detailed understanding of job vacancies and the associated training and educational requirements needed to fill these openings.

Second, the project provided critical insight into the perceptions of youth and Indigenous youth, teachers, and parents with respect to forestry and the forestry sector as a potential area of employment.

“While already integral to many communities today, the forestry sector will become even more important in the coming years as sustainably produced forest products are further recognized as a tool in the fight against climate change,” said Rob Keen, Registered Professional Forester and Forests Ontario chief executive officer. “Looking toward to the future, we need youth in the forestry sector –Bridging the Gap research findings will enable this growing industry to better and more effectively communicate with students and young adults to identify and recruit the skilled labour the sector needs.”

Awareness, engagement with youth needed

According to Bridging the Gap research, to effectively compete with other industries and attract and retain a workforce that can sustain continuous growth, the forestry sector will need to build better awareness and engagement with youth, so they consider forestry as a viable, enticing option when choosing their career paths.

Full details of the research project are available on the Forests Ontario (www.forestsontario.ca/en/resource/bridging-the-gap) and It Takes a Forest (www.ittakesaforest.ca/forest-stewardship/forestry-education-career-pathways/) websites.

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