by Derek Nighbor, president & CEO Forest Products Association of Canada

The transformation that is happening in Canada’s forest products sector is not limited to the new technologies we see in our forests and at our mills, nor in the new global markets we are reaching.  It is also reflected in the changing face of our workforce.

The iconic lumberjack, so fondly associated with the tradition of Canadian forestry is, in fact, something of yesteryear.  Today, our sector sports almost as many lab coats as we do safety vests.  We also see an increasing number of women now working in the woods and in mills across the country.  That said, we have much more work to do.

Only 17% of workers in our sector are women.  While that number is on the rise, we see a huge opportunity to promote careers in the forest sector as an option for both men and women who might not yet be thinking about us.  Diverse and inclusive workforces are demonstrably positive for all business sectors, and FPAC could not be happier to see a number of gender diversity opportunities getting national profile.

In November of last year, along with the Canadian Institute of Forestry, the federal government announced the Gender Equality in Forestry National Action Plan, a Canada-wide effort to promote opportunities for women in forestry.  The intent is to help the forest sector identify and address the barriers and gaps that stand in our way to maximizing the participation of women in our industry.

To make this happen, it is also important to ensure that our potential workers of tomorrow are aware of the role models and jobs that are out there.  That’s why, in conjunction with the United Nations’ International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11, Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) launched the #TakeYourPlace campaign to encourage women to think about careers in the forest products sector.  The campaign builds on other targeted efforts across Canada like the Alberta Forest Product Association’s #WomenInForestry campaign.

Today, Canada’s forest products sector directly employs over 230,000 people and thousands more are going to be needed in the next 10 years to fill an array of good jobs in engineering, skilled trades, mill and woodlands operations, and administration.  There is room for everyone in our sector, and tapping into a diverse talent pool – that goes well beyond gender – is going to be key to our future success.  We see good paying jobs open to men and women, millennials and older workers, as well as real potential to attract more workers from Indigenous communities and in the growing cohorts of new Canadians.

FPAC takes pride in being able to see the forest for the trees.  We know that embracing diversity and inclusion will be key to securing the future – not only for our sector – but for the hundreds of forestry communities that depend on us.Learn more about the jobs that will need to be filled in our sector today and in the years ahead at our interactive The Greenest Workforce website:www.thegreenestworkforce.ca/jobs/index.php/en/labour-market-information/forecast/