Proselytize Employees, Family & Friends For Forestry & Wood Careers

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My dad was an engineer. I wanted to be an engineer. I applied to the University of British Columbia and put forestry as a backup at the last minute. I moved my family to Vancouver and started locksmithing before I knew if I was accepted. However, I ended up getting accepted to forestry but not engineering. It didn’t matter because I took prerequisites for engineering courses anyway. I wouldn’t be where I am today if a college counselor hadn’t told me there was a wood engineering program within forestry. All my credits transferred over, and I picked up Wood Products Processing like a grizzly picks up spawning salmon.

Very few college students know and choose wood science and technology career paths. Very few universities offer forestry degrees and even fewer with wood tracks. Here are the university acronyms for North America: AU, CU, Laval, LSU, MSU, NCST, OSU, Purdue, UBC, UI, UK, UM, UNB, UT, UW, VT, WSU, WVU, and I am sure there are others. Some have complete wood programs; others have classes or other renewable material specialties. But no matter the studies, the point is all the same. They need more students.

At the NHLA Inspector Training School graduation ceremony in November, a student’s parents asked me what was next for their teenage son. I offered two tracks. Work hard and take initiative at the plant to improve production and learn the process. A production supervisor and other roles would be available if he wants them. Apply for university, get a wood (processing, science, or engineering) degree, and advance into production supervisor and management roles. Both options are great careers.

After I graduated with my Wood degree, I worked for Sauder Molding and was the production supervisor on the night shift for four months. I told them I was interested in a master’s degree, and they told me they would rather I worked there for two years. I told them I wanted them to guarantee me a day job within one year, but they didn’t want to put it in writing. I had seen sales guys get promoted over production guys and didn’t want to get stuck in 4 concrete walls, so I returned to school and received a master’s at UBC in Forests and Society. That opened even more career opportunities and put me on a course to NHLA.

The Hardwood industry needs more talented employees coming up through our ranks. I hear it whenever someone says they need an inspector and someone to send to the School. Many of the talented people we have in our industry today stumbled upon it somewhere in their schooling or career, as I did. For me, it was a backup that became a better reality. I am so glad I am not an engineer today. Many others will be glad of the opportunity that our industry can give them if only we can find them or help them choose this path. 

We all know that more people need to learn about the NHLA Inspector Training School, and the same goes for wood and forestry degrees. If we wait for others to solve this problem, we will wait in vain. We all need to start telling everyone about the opportunities within the Hardwood Industry, either through the ITS or university programs. We need to develop our workforce and not hope they will stumble into our industry. Put up posters at your facilities, invite connections and tours. Share it online and on social media. Why Knot proselytize employees, family, and friends for forestry and wood careers.

By Miller Wood Trade Publications

The premier online information source for the forest products industry since 1927.

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