LABOUR MARKET TRENDS IN CANADA’S FORESTRY SECTOR
In 2007, the Canadian Forest Service completed a comprehensive survey called Skills Shortages in Canada’s Forest Sector. Here are some of the study’s major conclusions:
The natural resources industries in general, have an older workforce than average for all Canadian industries. The forest sector industries are no exception; over 41% of employees are over the age of 45.
SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF RETIREMENTS ANTICIPATED
Given its comparatively older labour force, the forest sector will experience a significant outflow of older, experienced workers over the next 10 to 15 years. Labour demand in the sector over the next 10 years will be driven almost exclusively by retirements with few new jobs being created. Many forest-specific occupations will experience significantly higher than average retirement rates.
IMPENDING LABOUR MARKET IMBALANCE
Forecasts using the currently available information point to a future labour market imbalance in the forest sector. There are early signs of a shortage of higher-skilled occupations requiring a university degree and for management occupations. This shortage is likely to be heightened in the future as the forest industry re-orients itself towards value-added manufacturing and more complex manufacturing processes. Demand for workers with post-secondary education, skilled trades, computer skills or sales and marketing knowledge will be high, while demand for lower skilled labouring occupations will be weak.
Census data on average annual employment income shows that full-time employment in the forest industry paid higher than average for full-time employment in Canada. In 2001, the average annual income of a person employed full-time in the forest industry was $47,560 compared to an average of $43,577 for all industries. Within the forest industry, the highest pay was in the pulp & paper industry at $61,510 on average. The lowest pay was in the wood products manufacturing industry at an average of $40,039, while the forestry & logging industry paid $48,224 on average.
FORESTRY EDUCATION TRENDS
Since peaking at over 3,000 in the 1998/99 academic year, undergraduate enrolment in Canadian university forest programs has declined by nearly 46%. A similar downward trend appears to exist in college-level forest programs. In a survey conducted in the Fall/Winter of 2005 by the National Forest Strategy Coalition, 11 out of 12 responding colleges reported drops in enrolment. Since 2000 these 12 colleges have witnessed a combined decrease in enrolments of 28%.
The forestry sector will continue to need qualified people to lead it into the next generation. With less competition for newly available jobs, those who position themselves now will be ready when those opportunities arrive.
To read the entire CFS report, click here (PDF).