Adding Star Power To The Industry In 2024

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Allison DeFord
By Allison DeFord Executive Director North American Forest Foundation
Collierville, TN

Who isn’t always looking for ways to keep valuable conversations going with customers and others who could benefit from learning what you know–especially when it relates to the Hardwood industry?

This year the Chinese astrological calendar has put our industry in the spotlight, without even trying, because 2024 is the Year of the Wood Dragon. February 10, the Chinese New Year, marks the start of this sign which is said to influence events during the year as well as highlight  specific attributes. 

But first a bit of context.

The Wood Dragon is a zodiac sign (dragon) plus an element of nature (wood)

The Chinese lunar astrological system involves 12 zodiac signs, each one represented by a real or mythological animal, and five natural elements: water, wood, fire, metal, and earth. Twelve signs paired with five elements yields 60 combinations that repeat on 60-year cycles.

Each of the 60 pairings suggests distinct characteristics that are said to be reflected in people born in that year. These same traits are also said to shape happenings in the year as well, tapping into the characteristics of the animal and the natural element.

Natural element: Wood

The attributes associated with wood are easy to see: growth, development, harmony and caring. They bring thoughts of trees growing tall, absorbing carbon to clear the air, forests that clear the water and then yield renewable raw materials for a wide range of wood products. Sustainable forestry with its caring stewardship practices exemplifies the sense of harmony and balance.

Zodiac creature: Dragon

In Chinese mythology, the Dragon is an auspicious symbol. It’s associated with great power capable of controlling the wind, rain and elements. As part of the lunar calendar, the year of the Dragon is said to bring prosperity and good fortune.

Year of the Wood Dragon

As a combination, the Wood Dragon brings together all the attributes of wood with the power of the dragon. According to The Chinese Zodiac, specific traits associated with the sign include determination, creativity, leadership, nurturing, and a sense of adventure. Viewed in terms of the people and companies in the Hardwood products industry, these traits are easy to discern:

Leadership in the industry is preparing for the future with training, upskilling, and a strong focus on education. Leaders have grown from within the industry and readily communicate the career opportunities that are possible, ranging from traditional roles to high tech.

Creativity is inspired by wood’s versatility. The industry fosters innovations in wood product applications from furniture and housewares to finishes and construction applications.

Nurturing is another word for sustaining the health of our forests. Wise stewardship and sustainable forestry practices help to ensure that forests will remain and continue to thrive and grow rather than be put to other uses.

Determination and a strong sense of purpose keep the industry moving forward to ensure a vibrant future, promoting sustainable practices and the benefits of wood as a renewable resource.

These traits are all wrapped up in a sense of adventure, and what’s more adventurous than a young mind? Or a young person seeking an apprenticeship or internship or rewarding career path? Working to teach young people about forests and wood products because the future is in their hands. Preparing them with factual information about wood as a renewable resource and opening their eyes to the opportunities that exist for engaging careers in the industry. 

These concepts are part of what we do every day in this industry. They’re not new, but the Year of the Wood Dragon sheds new light on the industry. And that makes starting some of those all-important conversations just a bit easier.

Seeds of the future

As we enter 2024, the need for qualified workers to fill a wide range of jobs throughout the forest products industry is still great. Upskilling current workers and cultivating an interest in the industry are both important ways to grow this pool of qualified talent. You’re already planting seeds, with outreach to schools and colleges, field trips and internships

Looking to the future, the North American Forest Foundation is working to help reach the next generation, starting with the seedlings–kids in the early years of elementary school. By providing classroom teachers with programming that targets children in kindergarten through third grade, we let them see the possibilities that could follow from a career in the forest products industry.

Mixing creativity and a sense of adventure–both Wood Dragon attributes–we help make learning the Truth About Trees fun. A digital learning app designed specifically for junior high school students is in the works. This will reach kids at a critical age, when they are beginning to think more seriously about what their work future could look like. Building upon the classroom kit, it will add another layer of understanding and introduce career topics. 

Donations drive the work we do–both in the classroom and as an advocate for the industry. They make it possible for us to provide classroom kits to teachers at no charge, and the digital app as well, once it’s released. 

Want to help plant some seeds that will help establish a thriving wood products workforce? Your support helps more people understand the benefits of healthy forests for future generations to enjoy, and helps encourage young people to embark on a career in the industry. Visit our website or contact me at love talking about wood, and the Year of the Wood Dragon adds some star power to the topic. Make the most of this unusual opportunity and start some valuable conversations with your customers and those around you.

By Allison Deford

By Allison Deford, Executive Director, North American Forest Foundation, Collierville, Tn 901-860-4131

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