Well before the pandemic, the forest industry in Canada was struggling to find skilled, competent employees. A 2013 report analyzing British Columbia’s forestry labour needs projected there would be nearly 5,000 job openings by 2022, 95 per cent of which due to retirements.

A 2020 report on the Ontario forestry sector showed a clear downward hiring trend in the province’s forestry sector from 2006 to 2019. Between logging, pulp and paper, and other related manufacturing jobs, the total went from 70,125 to 43,910.

Canada’s forestry trade balance accounts for nearly $20 billion of our GDP, the greatest forestry trade balance in the world. Meanwhile, COVD-19 propelled demand and prices for wood, creating plenty of economic opportunities. How can the industry tackle the labour shortage and take full advantage of these resources?

Need for Fresh Growth

The Ontario report highlighted several challenges the industry would need to overcome in order to reach its full potential, including:

  • The current negative image of the forestry sector
  • Challenges attracting youth and recruiting new workers
  • Challenges retaining workers
  • Shortage of skilled workers

These challenges are interrelated and tackling the industry’s negative image could go a long way in helping with the labour shortages.

Firstly, the forestry sector has a reputation as a “3D” job: difficult, dirty, and dangerous. A 2018 report ranked logging and forestry as the most dangerous industry with the least economic reward.

Many forestry employees work in isolation in remote areas and have to deal with falling trees and branches, dangerous tools like chainsaws, electrical hazards, and high falls.

When trying to attract young, new talent to the industry, employers will need to invest resources in training and safety precautions. For example, SafetyLine Worker uses mobile data and cloud computing to monitor worker safety and provide automated updates. Demonstrating that your company prioritizes safety will improve the sector’s reputation as unsafe.

Secondly, women account for only 20 per cent of the industry’s workforce, representing an untapped labour source. Initiatives like Women in Wood and Women in Forestry help encourage more women to join the sector and undermine the industry’s reputation as an old boys’ club.

Finally, championing green initiatives will also combat the industry’s reputation as environmentally destructive. For example, mass timber, which doesn’t need large-diameter trees, can exceed or match concrete and steel while reducing carbon emissions by as much as 45 per cent.

We Know Your Industry

With a tight labour market, the competition for skilled, competent employees is intense. Employers in the forest industry need to hire reliable, qualified candidates quickly before a competitor can.

Triton’s pre-employment background checks will ensure applicants are trustworthy with industry-leading turnaround times. Our criminal background checks, education history verifications, and reference checks will optimize and streamline your hiring process.

To learn more call 1-855-790-7516 or visit our website.