The forestry industry grew significantly throughout the recession and graduates coming out with a qualification in the area are in demand. This was the message to 80 forestry students who attended a graduate opportunities event in Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) recently.
The event, organised by the forestry programme leader Tom Kent, heard from some of the Irish forest industry’s biggest stakeholders, including Coillte, the Forest Service and SWS Forestry.
Speaking at the event, Mr PJ Ferris from Coillte Teoranta, the semi state forest company, stressed that companies were now competing with each other for new graduate entrants to the forest sector. He said “Coillte intends to invest in their recruited graduates and increase their existing skill set.”
Mr John Redmond from the Forest Service, the government’s state forest body, highlighted upcoming opportunities for graduates to work with them on the National Forest Inventory, a key strategic planning project carried out at five year intervals to monitor the forest resource, while Mr Joe Fitzgerald of SWS Forestry (private forestry company) outlined the key attributes his company valued in prospective employees.
In his opening address, Tom Kent highlighted the resilient nature of the forestry industry. “The sector has thrived, despite the recession and today continues to grow. The Irish forest industry is expanding due to continued afforestation, harvesting and wood processing and as a result the industry needs graduates to continue to work in this sphere.”
Forests currently cover 10% of the land area of Ireland and contribute €2 billion per year to the economy. Timber production is forecast to double over the coming years and another 7% of land area is targeted for afforestation by 2035.
He added, “WIT forestry students can expect to be well prepared for entry to the industry, learning all aspects of forest management, in addition to broader science, technology, and professional development skills. Students particularly value the experience gained through the wide range of field work and project-based assessments and the many opportunities provided to visit forest companies. A career in managing natural resources is rewarding and provides a graduate with the prospect of a sustainable job in Ireland or international opportunities for travel and excitement. In fact, fifteen immediate forestry graduate employment positions have been highlighted by the three industry speakers with further opportunities through the setting up of employment panels.”
There were also presentations made by former WIT Forestry graduates who spoke of their experiences since completing their forestry studies at WIT and within their current employment. The graduates now work in leading forestry organisations such as the Forest Service, the Forestry Company, Murray’s Timber Group, and the UK forest industry.
According to forestry graduate, Adriene Booth, who is now Lismore Estate forest manager and part time lecturer on the BSc in Forestry, “WIT has always provided the forest industry with high calibre graduates and the capacity of the course to respond to the requirements of the forest industry is shown by the willingness of the major companies and state bodies to attend this seminar.”
Mr. Booth continued “What was obvious on the day was that the future is bright for the forest industry with growing potential for careers in the sector. As the sector continues to thrive WIT is perfectly positioned to provide the best start for those who want a career as a professional forester.”