Derek Nighbor, CEOForest Products Association of Canada (FPAC)
Growing up in the Ottawa Valley, I appreciated from a young age the importance of the forest sector to our local economy. My brother and I were fortunate enough to earn good money in the summer on the same corrugated box making factory floor where my grandfather and father earned their livelihoods.
Years later, as the CEO of the national forest products association and after seeing significant innovation and transformation across the industry, I am reminded that forest sector jobs continue to be rewarding and good-paying jobs in some 200 forest communities across Canada.
With more than 230,000 direct forestry jobs in Canada today, we continue to see opportunities on the horizon for young and more experienced workers in a host of job areas in forest operations, at mills, head offices and in the design, marketing and manufacturing of innovative forest products.
These jobs are not just supporting families and local economies, but they are also green jobs – bringing real benefit to the environment for all of us through sustainable forest management and the creation of environmentally friendly, forest-sourced products.
One of the biggest labour challenges in our industry today is ensuring that we have the right people trained to do the jobs that are going to be in demand not only today, but tomorrow. The Forest Products Association of Canada’s launch in June of our new job-matching tool with the Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk, Federal Minister of Employment, Workforce and Labour, will be a critical tool to support matching job hunters with job opportunities, thereby supporting economic growth in communities across Canada.
This new tool (thegreenestworkforce.ca), which is free for both employment seekers and employers will not only support those looking for work in the forest sector, but it will also provide advanced labour market information that can be used to help forestry companies with their recruitment efforts, allow governments to develop public policies to better address employment needs, and support our high schools, colleges and universities by informing students about the career opportunities that exist in Canada’s forest sector. It will also promote the Canadian industry’s world-leading track record of environmental sustainability and how rewarding a career in the forest sector can be.
One of the things that has dramatically changed since my summer stints on the plant floor in Pembroke, Ontario is the technological transformation that has happened across industry. From the sophisticated software that helps run everything from our mills to our back-end delivery systems to the innovative new uses for wood products (clothing, cosmetics and even parts for the interior of your car) to the various technologies that help us maintain our sustainable forestry models and practices, the images of the traditional lumberjack are more than a little outdated.
As visitors to our new job-matching tool can attest, today’s modern forestry operations are looking for engineers, computer scientists, biologists, mill operators, environmental scientists, and specialists in human resources, communications, the law, accounting and finance.
And yes, forestry companies will always need foresters and loggers too.
The industry has changed a great deal. It’s more diverse, more high-tech and more sophisticated in its pursuit of sustainability. Those advances, according to an international survey (fpac.ca/leger) released earlier this year, have helped our industry earn the best reputation in the world for its environmental practices.
Canada’s forest sector will continue to innovate and transform in the years to come and will continue to remain the lifeblood of communities across the country. Our hope is that this new job-matching tool will help even more Canadians find quality, good-paying jobs in the forest sector.