We brought into this project by our friends at RED the Agency in Edmonton.
The forestry industry has been decimated by severe long-term market conditions, extended shutdowns and loss of profitability.
But as the industry starts to experience a modest revival, it now faces sever labour force competition from the energy sector.
Some industries, especially resource based ones like forestry, are viewed as sunset industries, low tech and tough on the environment. Couple that with remote locations and physically demanding work in the field or manufacturing facilities and you have an image problem that challenges their ability to attract and retain workforce members.
Forestry is deeply embedded in rural communities and we used Dialogic Research to understand the community - industry dynamic. We visited Hinton, Whitecourt, Boyle, Grande Prairie and Manning with sessions that had 21 - 36 participants.
Outside of the industry itself, there is a very narrow understanding of what is forestry, and this is rooted in old stereotypes of the woodlands-based logging activities. This narrow understanding persists in the same towns where forestry is a key driver of the industry. We cannot assume that youth in these communities know or understand what opportunities forestry may provide as a career.
Further complicating perspectives of the forest industry, is that non-industry workers are deeply influenced by BC forests and forestry practices.
For both attraction and retention of workers, people must make a conscious choice to make your life in a small community. They will do this for three reasons: family and belonging, having lots of things to do (but only if they see them) and being connected to the majesty of the land.