Let’s face it: the forest products sector hasn’t always had the best image.
After all, it’s difficult to think of cutting down trees as a good thing.
But while this industry could have just continued managing its bad reputation, it has instead decided to do something major about it.
“Gone are the days of the lumberjacks throwing logs around or working in the wood room feeding wood into a mill.”
—Jim Farrell, Executive Director, Forest Products Sector Council
Last spring, the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) unveiled Vision 2020, a new industry-led vision that outlines where the forest industry sees itself by the year 2020 – powering Canada’s new economy by being green, innovative and open to the world.
“The industry has changed dramatically – we have gone through some really tough times, but we are shaping a new path for our future that is extremely appealing,” says Catherine Cobden, Executive Vice President of FPAC.
“We have to get over the old images of the industry.”
Cutting down trees to make wood products is destroying our forests
Reality: Forest products companies today are committed to harvesting legally, regenerating harvested trees promptly, reducing waste and recycling, and welcoming independent scrutiny. Less than 1% of Canada’s total forest area is harvested each year, and about 650 million seedlings are planted annually to ensure regeneration.
“The Canadian forest industry has more third-party certified land than anywhere else in the world by a massive margin,” Catherine adds. “We’ve fully embraced this approach of following the highest standards of sustainable forest management practices.”
What it means for your career: Canada’s forest products industry is an ideal place for students and recent grads from all academic backgrounds who want to feel good about working in a world-leading renewable-resource industry.
The forest products industry is a major polluter
“We lead the global movement in environmental management, but we are never satisfied with the status quo.”
—Catherine Cobden, Executive Vice President, FPAC
Reality: The forest products industry has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 60% since 1990, getting almost two-thirds of its energy needs from forest biomass (wood waste and pulp liquor) and in some cases is selling excess energy to the grid.
The sector is also working hard to become carbon neutral without the purchase of carbon offset credits by 2015.
“We lead the global movement in environmental management, but we are never satisfied with the status quo,” Catherine says.
What it means for your career: Innovative, environmentally-friendly ideas are welcome! Young workers with an eye for energy and resource conservation will be recognized and rewarded.
The forest industry only has jobs for uneducated, unskilled workers
Reality: These days, working in the forest industry involves more brains than brawn.
“Gone are the days of the lumberjacks throwing logs around or working in the wood room feeding wood into a mill,” says Jim Farrell, Executive Director of the Forest Products Sector Council (FPSC).
“People work in air-conditioned booths with computer screens and joysticks to operate high-end technology, so it’s important for them to understand how this stuff actually works.”
What it means for your career: Whether you’re an engineer, technician, scientist or tradesperson, your specialized knowledge and technical skills are hugely in demand by forest products employers. Find out which jobs are most in-demand in the forest products industry right now.
The demand for forest products is dying
Reality: Sure, we’re reading a lot more eBooks and online news these days, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need products derived from trees anymore – we still use wood and wood fibre to make everything from our homes to car parts, pharmaceuticals to clothing, and much more.
Canada’s forest products are also in-demand globally from both the United States and Asia: “We are the largest exporter of any Canadian product to China and the second-largest to India,” Catherine says. “We are heavily engaged in building new market share in those emerging economies.”
What it means for your career: Plenty of job opportunities that will take you across Canada and around the world, including in global trade, public policy, marketing and more. French language skills will always be an asset thanks to the industry’s strong roots in Quebec, but students and recent grads who can speak Mandarin or Hindi may soon have an advantage over those who don’t.
“We really operate in a global context, so it’s crucial that we have the skills, competencies and passion of people who like to know what’s happening and what the implications are for our industry which operates on a global stage,” she says.
Forest products jobs can only be found in Quebec and B.C.
Reality: Canada’s forest products industry is truly national, with tree planting, managing and harvesting sites, and mills, labs and offices operating from coast to coast. It’s not uncommon for forest products workers to move locations throughout their careers and, while most forest operations can be found in smaller, more remote communities close to the forests, head offices and regional sales offices are often located in some of Canada’s largest cities.
What it means for your career: You don’t have to be stuck in one place for your entire career. Most of the larger forest products companies have dozens of locations across the country, and some even have U.S. or international operations. For example, Resolute Forest Products‘ head office is in Montreal, but it also has 70 other operations across Canada and the U.S.
Photo credit: Dave Mathis