In celebration of 20 years of Forestry at WIT, we talk to Barry Roche, forest manager, SWS Forestry Services Ltd.
Forest manager Barry Roche did not have a lot of experience when he took on the responsibilities of a forester after graduating. Although he was lacking some experience, he is doing well in his job but does advise others to try and get some forestry contracting work with a variety of tasks because “this will give a feel for what standards you expect on a site and what work and time are involved in carrying out the same,” he says.
What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
Forest establishment and maintenance: Overseeing forest service approvals and sourcing contractors to carry out works such as ground preparation, fencing, planting, vegetation control, shaping, fertiliser application and filling in. Also organisation of the construction of forest roads and harvesting of timber.
Describe a typical day
Days are either on the road to carry out a range of tasks such as meeting contractors or landowners, carrying out site inspections, walking new lands for planting. If not on the road, it is an office day carrying out various paperwork operations.
What are the main challenges?
Finding available land for planting new forests is my main challenge. The average site size is getting smaller with more paperwork involved. Competing agricultural schemes and land leases reduce land availability for forestry. Dry winters are providing poorer land with grazing for farmers. Also finding available contractors on the ground to carry out forestry work can be difficult.
What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?
Punctuality, organisation, leadership, communication. I am self-driven and can manage people.
Change of work practice from day to day. Monday could be an office day, Tuesday and Wednesday could be inspecting sites and Thursday and Friday could be meeting landowners and contractors.
What's not so cool?
Long hours, and making myself available to meet landowners and farmers any day of the week. Also, often there is a lot of work happening at the one time.
How did you go about getting your current job?
College at Waterford Institute of Technology for three years to qualify with a Bachelor of Science in Forestry. Posted CV followed by a phone call to the general manager of the company.
What were the main 'career decision' milestones in your life so far?
Taking on the responsibility of a forester relatively quickly after leaving college with not a lot of experience on the ground.
Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?
Parents, friends who had done Forestry in college, personal relations involved in the harvesting side of forestry. A neighbour was doing forest maintenance contract work.
Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?
Yes. It is all about good organisation and communication so when you have a plan and the person you’re communicating with (e.g. a contractor) understands on the ground what needs to be done it makes both of our jobs easier. Organise to a certain extent where you have to be at a certain time of a day so you can work around various things you might need to do.
Education and training
What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?
Geography, French, business, home economics, LCVP. Out of these, geography helped when inspecting sites, as different parts of the country have different soil types/depths/drainage, aspect, elevation etc. Business helped from a sales point of view towards promoting forestry and the financial benefits.
What is your education to date?
BSc in Forestry degree from WIT.
What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?
Practical experience gained when in college from site visits and field trips combined with in-classlectures on the same subjects. This way you learn first then see it in practice.
Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?
Not sure at the moment.
What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?
First forest site planted, now seeing trees becoming established. First forest road I constructed and first harvesting site. Mostly when I completed different tasks of a forester for the first time.
What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?
Farming background. Easy going, able to talk to people and being organised and able to get a point across to someone.
What is your dream job?
At the moment, to be as good an all-around forester as possible, not just in forest establishment or harvesting but all aspects of a forester’s curriculum.
Advice for others
What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?
The farming background is a help. Knowledge of land types. Punctual, communication, organised and being self-driven.
What advice would you give to someone considering this job?
Try to get some forestry contracting work on the ground with a forester and vary the work you look to do. For example spend a few weeks with a maintenance contractor spraying, cleaning, planting, applying fertiliser and shaping. This will give a feel for what standards you expect on a site and what work and time are involved in carrying out the same. You might then spend time on a harvesting site looking at pre, during and post harvesting.
What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?
What I mentioned above. It doesn’t need to be a paid work experience to be most beneficial but on the ground, practical experience is best.
These WIT Forestry graduate testimonials were compiled by the Forestry Careers Promotion Group to mark the 20-year anniversary of Forestry courses at WIT in 2018.