Time is Ticking on Industry Growth

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Recent experience has taught us all that predictions can be far off the mark. Nonetheless, the forest products industry is hiring, and looking at the year ahead, the need is strong to fill the roles left vacant as skilled workers retire and keep up with anticipated growth in the coming decade.

As more people across many sectors get serious about addressing the need to control carbon, more people are embracing the increased use of wood in construction, as a building material that is both sustainable and renewable.

In addition to keeping pace with workforce needs and attracting new workers to the field, a further challenge for family-owned businesses is the need to keep younger generations engaged in the family business operations. Training up the next generation and introducing the industry to young people across a spectrum of ages becomes an important investment in the future.

Growth involves more than repeating what has worked in the past.

Workforce development is a critical concern in the forest products industry just as it is in many manufacturing sectors. Growth involves more than repeating what has worked in the past.

Industry Trends

Climate change awareness along with advancements in sustainability and building practices have brought about a new emphasis on wood products as a key part of the solution for carbon emissions. Beyond the standard wood-framed homes, designers of buildings—even those exceeding 14 stories–are turning to wood. ArchDaily describes multiple city projects in cities from Philadelphia to Chicago and San Francisco https://bit.ly/3BCfxO0.

Closing The Skills Gap

Manufacturing in general shares some of the key challenges facing the forest products industry in terms of workforce needs as workers with specialized skills retire. Teaching new skills to current staff is not enough to bring about the necessary growth in the workforce, particularly in entry-level positions. A recent Deloitte Manufacturing Institute report https://bit.ly/3p6MFZ1 digs deeper into the topic of developing tomorrow’s workforce.

One of the first pathways they describe to building a strong workforce is to engage with young people and create opportunities to attract and connect with them.

Young people can enter forest-related industries at many points–as a member of a skilled workforce, as a forester, practitioner of forest management, or in one of the many roles within a lumber or wood products organization. Inspiring an interest in these or related careers and understanding their value (which currently has a strong potential for growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics  https://bit.ly/33EOHs1) begins at an early age.

In other words, as the process applies to forest products, start reaching kids while they’re young by planting and nurturing seeds of awareness and interest. Ensure that kids are taught accurate information about forest management and the forest products industry—tell them the truth about trees. The truth about the role trees play in removing carbon from the atmosphere and the benefits of using wood—protecting forests through sustainable harvesting practices.

An understanding like this doesn’t happen overnight; like trees, it takes years before the harvest is ready, but the North American Forest Foundation is on the job planting seeds of interest and truth through education. By providing Truth About Trees kits to classroom teachers at no charge, we’re moving toward a goal of reaching 1 million children by 2030.

Empowering teachers with accurate information to help teach the truth about trees helps children become aware of careers in the forest products industry and opportunities to enroll in forestry programs; it helps shape their attitudes toward the benefits our planet derives from healthy, properly managed forests.

Time Is Ticking

We don’t want to let this teachable time slip away. That’s why our goal is to help children understand the truth when they are young. Together, we can help kids become #exTREEmelysmart to create a healthier future for them, our industry, and the planet. Support NAFF today, and change hearts and minds about wood, for good.

Let’s Grow Something Beautiful Together To learn more about sponsorship opportunities, to make a donation, or find out how you can help change hearts and minds about wood, for good, please visit us at www.northamericanforestfoundation.org or drop me a line at adeford@northamericanforestfoundation.org.

By Allison Deford

By Allison Deford, Executive Director, North American Forest Foundation, Collierville, Tn 901-860-4131 adeford@northamericanforestfoundation.org

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