Canadian Biomass Magazine

The Greenest Workforce

November 29, 2012
By Monica Bailey

The forest products industry is hiring. That may surprise many people who have associated the sector with cutbacks and mill closures.

The forest products industry is hiring. That may surprise many people who have associated the sector with cutbacks and mill closures. However, after some difficult years, the industry has turned the corner and is once again offering solid careers.

The forest products sector now has a green and growing future. As we have previously mentioned in these pages, the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) has unveiled Vision2020, an ambitious plan to propel the industry forward by improving its environmental performance by 35%, by generating an additional $20 billion in economic activity from new products and markets, and by renewing its workforce with 60,000 recruits including women, indigenous peoples and new Canadians.

The 21st-century forest products industry requires techno-savvy, innovative trailblazers who care about their future, the environment and quality of life. There is no better example than FPAC’s first recipient of the Skills Award for Indigenous Youth, Baillie Redfern. Baillie is a young Metis and graduate researcher at the University of British Columbia in the field of medicinal plant genomics. Her work focuses on the development of new bioproducts from balsam fir, including pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

Creating smart, green, everyday consumer products from wood fibre is just one of many career avenues available in the forest products industry. In fact, no matter where in the business you work – on the mill floor as a mechanical engineer, or in the forest as a forestry technician – the jobs are part of the greenest industry in Canada.


That’s because unlike minerals and oil, forests are renewable – we are part of nature’s cycle and regenerate whatever is harvested. The forest industry has world-class environmental credentials, including the most certified forests in the world, a decrease of more than 70% in greenhouse gas emissions since 1990 and a partnership with environmental groups under the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. The sector is producing more and more bioenergy at mill sites and selling excess electricity to the grid. And the list goes on.

There is also a long list of jobs to be filled – millwrights, electricians, international sales staff, truck drivers, foresters, chemists, engineers and more. A major challenge remains the need to compete with other sectors, especially the oil patch for skilled labour. To attract workers, the sector intends to highlight its impressive track record for accommodating work-life balance, which includes flexible work hours, skills and training development, career growth, community life, and the ability to have dinner at home should you want to without the burden of flying off to work camps.

Still, we recognize the need for additional strategies to reach out to women, aboriginals and new Canadians. Look for a new initiative to be announced early next year, expected in February at the Paper Week job fair in Montreal. Let there be no doubt – Canada’s forest products industry is on the move and eager to welcome new employees to be part of Canada’s greenest workforce.

Monica Bailey is director, communications and member relations, for FPAC. She is responsible for the strategic development and implementation of FPAC’s communications, new media, marketing and promotions activities.

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