By David Lindsay. President and CEO, Forest Products Association of Canada
Entering 2015 Alberta and Canada are facing some economic challenges. While much of the debate and discussion has revolved around the price of oil, it’s fair to say that jobs and economic opportunity still exists in that other resource sector, the forest products industry.
During years of upheaval, the forest sector seemed to fade into the background as oil and some other resource industries drew the attention of the nation and the world. But over the past decade the forest industry has been quietly working in the background, doing the heavy lifting to develop world leading practices, invest in research and development, diversify global markets and become a more modern and innovative sector. So today, at the dawn of 2015, an often over-looked resource industry finds itself on the rise and looking for workers to help full its enormous potential..
Years of hard work by governments and industry to penetrate new markets are paying off. Today Canada is the second largest forest products sector exporter in the world. Canadians may be surprised to know that the sector exports to more than 180 countries and that forest products are Canada’s number one export to China. . The forest sector can claim an almost 10% increase in exports in 2014, and even the conservative amongst us are feeling bullish over 2015 given the export-friendly state of the Canadian dollar.
Canada is home to world-leading businesses that are transforming and innovating. Wood fibre is now being used in everything from car parts to cosmetic and clothing and the future of the sector holds even more potential, in areas such as nano-technology and 3D printing. The tough times of the recent past necessitated some tough decisions and some bold new investments with the industry emerging as modernized and high tech. Our competitiveness has improved at almost three times the rate of Canada’s overall business sector.
Forestry is a life-blood industry in hundreds of communities across Canada and a foundational economic driver for hundreds more. And given its bright outlook, the industry is on the hire. On any given day in Canada, about 500 well-paying and stable jobs are open in the forest products sector. In fact, our industry employment numbers have been stable since 2010 and the industry hired 8,000 employees between 2010-2012. We have also set the ambitious goal under the sector’s Vision2020 of recruiting an additional 60,000 employees by the end of the decade.
Today in Canada our lumberjacks often wear lab coats and are more likely to carry smart devices than axes. While our future is built on the foundation of our past we are modern, sophisticated and high tech. We’re harnessing technology to improve our productivity and environmental performance and we need the workforce to deliver.
Like all good businesses, we’ve evolved, changed, gotten better and are now poised to offer family-supporting jobs in attractive communities with a good quality of life. For many of our companies, the most pressing problem is getting enough people to check the classifieds, or our job website,” thegreenestworkforce.ca” for the rewarding jobs we have on offer. For those questioning their future in Canada’s resource sector, take a look our way, and don’t forget to see the forest for the trees.