In celebration of 20 years of Forestry at WIT, we talk to Colm Lyons, forest technician, Coillte
Forest technician Colm mentions that his career is still short but he enjoys being in Forestry as he had always wanted. “My dream job all my life was to become a forester and follow in my fathers footsteps,” Colm says.
Next to his father being a great influence, Colms love for the great outdoors and being in the woods has also contributed to his interest in Forestry, as does his passion for working with timber, which he still does with his uncle.
What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
- Responsible for the effective delivery of the Business Area Unit forest maintenance, tending and establishment operational programmes efficiently within budget, schedule and quality standards. This includes restock, private contracts & farm/business partnerships
- Validate tactical plans and provide key inputs to ensure annual work-planning and budgets are fully aligned with the Business Area Unit strategic business and operating plans
- Primary responsibility for the management of operational staff and resources to ensure optimum operational cost efficiency and quality in the achievement of the Business Area Unit operational and business objectives. This includes work recording, pay/invoice processing and control of stock and material usage
- Manage and control the establishment, tending and operational programme to agreed schedule within standard / average costs models and to Company / Forest Service quality standards
- Implement total quality assurance and reconciliation procedures including the monitoring, tracking, recording and enforcement of remedial works
- Responsible for ensuring the accurate and efficient completion of planting and free growing returns as defined in the inventory code of practice
- Develop and implement security plans and controls within the Business Area Unit to ensure access is managed and the security and integrity of Coillte property and the forest estate is protected
- Plan, monitor and implement measures to ensure forest health is maintained
- Ensure full compliance with all environmental, Forest Stewardship Council, Health & Safety policies, standards and governance requirements
- Effectively represent and promote the Coillte brand locally
- Develop strong and effective relationships with our customers and stakeholders (local/ operation specific) to ensure our business objectives and goals are supported and realised
Describe a typical day
No day is the same in this job. There is always something different to do. Forestry is very varied. Different issues pop up every day. In my job, I deal with stakeholders a lot and they take time with every one of them having different issues. So no I never have a typical day.
What are the main challenges?
There are many challenges, there are day-to-day challenges with operation issues, such as machinery breakdowns, overturned vehicles etc. ongoing challenges are keeping the forest estate up to standard rubbish, trespass etc.
What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?
I am a motivated person and always drive to achieve high performance. I have excellent experience within the Forestry industry and a huge understanding of establishment.
Getting to meet new people every day. Learning new skills and gaining experience every day.
What's not so cool?
Dealing with awkward and unpleasant clients and stakeholders.
How did you go about getting your current job?
I previously worked in a private forestry company for 1 and a half years. Then I applied under the Coillte Graduate programme and was successful in getting my current job.
What were the main 'career decision' milestones in your life so far?
As my career is so short so far I didn’t make huge or life-changing decisions that will impact my current career yet.
Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?
My father is my main influence in my life, and he also works with Coillte as a forest manager.
Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?
In my current job, workloads are big so planning is the key. I don’t think in my current job that it always allows for work-lifebalance. Contractors don’t always have time to meet you during the daytimeso you have to make time in the evenings and weekends.
Education and Training
What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?
English, Irish, maths, German, construction studies, geography and biology. Construction studies were always my favourite, I loved working with timber and still do with my uncle today. I always loved the outdoors and being in the woods. Biology was always of interest to me the way in which living things are made up.
What is your education to date?
I completed the National Certificate in Forestry with Teagasc, Ballyhaise, Co. Cavan. I transferred with advanced entry to Waterford Institute of Technology where I completed the Level 7 BSc in Forestry and Level 8 BSc (Hons) in Land Management in Forestry.
What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?
I think the most important time was during my degree in Waterford IT, it was a very comprehensive and demanding degree. It has proven to be very beneficial in my current and past forestry roles. Every part of forestry, practical and academic, was covered. It prepared me for a challenging work environment.
Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?
I have plans to complete more education to progress me in my current career. Coillte is restructuring and I think a business degree or diploma would be very beneficial in future career choices. As part of my job, we are in continuous training as systems and technology change rapidly.
What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?
I think the most rewarding event in my career so far, is in my current role managing the planting of over 600ha. and the cultivation of another 350ha while adhering to budgets, standards and guidelines. Multi-tasking is one of my strong areas completing a large establishment program, managing forest parks and Coillte estate management solving operational problems on a daily basis. I have adapted to an ever-changingwork environment taking responsibility for a cost centre in October 2016.
What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?
I am a very organised person. I am a big believer in planning. I plan my day, my week, my month, my year. I am also a good people person, I get on well with everyone and try to work as a team.
What is your dream job?
My dream job all my life was to become a forester and follow in my father footsteps.
Advice for Others
What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?
- Good Communication
What advice would you give to someone considering this job?
Work hard and always strive to achieve good things. It is very important to keep the eye on the ball and keep a focus on the bigger picture. Days in college/school may be laborious and mind-numbing but keep at it, believe me, there is an end.
What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?
Work experience is very important in my opinion, paid or unpaid, I did my work experience with Coillte and I found it very beneficial. I think also it is important to do work experience in the practical side such as chainsaw work, planting etc.
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.