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Need for more professional forestry graduates

Forestry companies addressing the need for more professional forestry graduates

Plantation forest products will soon be New Zealand’s number one export, and there is a shortage of people with forestry skills. Too few professional foresters are graduating in New Zealand at present, and this shortfall has prompted some forward-thinking forestry companies to offer incentives for school leavers to adopt forestry as a career.

Professional foresters play key roles in managing New Zealand’s forests. In plantations they provide expert planning and administrative skills to an industry that will be our number one export earner within five years. Exotic organisms such as possums, stoats, weasels, deer, and wasps are fundamentally changing our precious native forests, and professional foresters have the skills to solve those problems as well.

The New Zealand School of Forestry at the University of Canterbury estimates that 35-40 new Bachelor of Forestry Science (BForSc) graduates are required each year, along with 25-30 new graduates with a Bachelor of Engineering in Forestry (BForEng). These professional, four-year degrees are recognised internationally as foundations for forestry careers. Last year there were only 16 BForSc graduates and 2 BForEng graduates from the school, which is the only professional forestry school in New Zealand. This has led some forestry companies to recruit professionals from overseas, but they would prefer to be offering careers to New Zealanders.

James Everett, Managing Director for Rayonier NZ Ltd., says that the statistics “are extremely concerning for Rayonier and the wider industry”. Rayonier is committed to attracting high calibre students into the bachelor degrees at the School of Forestry, and has offered two scholarships: $1000 to a first year student and $3000 to a student who advances beyond the second year of the degree. In addition, the company has offered summer work and graduate placements to students.

Philip Langston, Chief Executive Officer of Wenita Forest Products Ltd. shares the concern about declining numbers of graduates, and the company has offered $2500 to help fund a recruitment drive. He says, "Wenita calculated its contribution based upon our relative weighting by area and volume to the School's funding request and we ask all the other forest owners to stand up and do the same." The company has also offered 4 summer placements for students.

Euan Mason, senior lecturer at the School, says that high school students often misjudge forestry. “Some express vague notions about black singlets and chainsaws when I talk with them. In fact, forestry is intellectually stimulating and greatly needed. We are at the dawn of a Neolithic age in wood production, when people are moving from hunter-gatherer approaches to more intelligent, sustainable practices. Forestry is about all ways in which people interact with trees, however, not just about wood production, and these other dimensions are equally important. It’s a privilege to be a forester at a crucial time in New Zealand’s history when our plantations are developing and our native forests are in such great need.”

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