There are a number of different ways people seeking a career in forestry can educate themselves, from a range of academic courses at universities and colleges to on-site training and apprenticeships. But what can ordinary forestry workers do to help educate the young men and women coming up behind them, ensuring they have the right skills and knowledge to succeed in the industry? Canadian forester Lacey Rose has a few thoughts.

LACEY Rose here, Canadian tree-hugger-turned-forester. I grew up in Labrador, on the 53°N parallel, spending most of my time at my family’s cabin – which was made out of wood, heated by wood, sometimes reading books made out of . . . wood. Nevertheless, the nine-year-old eco-terrorist in me would harass my dad about cutting trees down for firewood, exclaiming that he was destroying the forest and all its inhabitants. This was primarily because I had been exposed to the classic 1990s children’s film FernGully: The Last Rainforest, in which villainous loggers destroy the homes of forest fairies and their creature friends. For years after seeing that movie, I thought cutting down trees was bad. Needless to say, some things have changed since then. 
The lessons I learned along the way were thanks to some key people. I believe that everyone working in the forestry sector can play a role in changing misconceptions about the industry, and can even go as far as encouraging young folk to join us and help them succeed. 

So, how did I end up as a forester? There was no commercial forestry sector where I grew up. I didn’t know it was an option, or even make the connection between trees and wood products. I did love being outside, was very interested in wildlife, and my number-one priority was being employed at the end of whatever educational path I went down. Enter Francis, the first influencer in my career. Francis was my biology professor in my first year of studies, before I had figured out what to do yet, and offered me a job doing bird surveys in the Labrador wilds for the summer. 

He also asked me: “Have you considered a career in forestry?” Simple as that. My response: “What’s forestry?” Well, turns out forestry is something that allows you to work outside, learn about wildlife and how to protect it, and has a near 100% employment rate after graduation in Canada. Which brings us to...

Action Item #1: Ask a young person if they have considered a career in forestry 
It sounds simple, but we’re not doing it enough and clearly (case in point) the question can have an impact. Sadly, I have even heard of people actively discouraging their children from following in their footsteps. I recognise that there have been some hard times in the industry, but I personally think it’s a great place to be. 
To be even more proactive, commit to visiting a classroom or taking kids outside to learn about forestry at least once a year. If everyone did this, we would have the best recruitment programme on earth. 

Another tactic could be to tell everyone who will listen how great your job is – friends, family, even people sitting next to you on the bus or aeroplane. I have found that people are generally very interested in hearing about a job that allows you to work outside – how novel!
Further along my career path, I enrolled in the University of New Brunswick’s Bachelor of Science in Forestry programme. It was very intimidating to learn over 300 species of trees, shrubs, mosses and ferns in year one when my background knowledge was three trees, but it was an amazing programme. 

Obtaining relevant summer employment was somewhat of an expectation, but I struggled to get these jobs. The first job I managed to secure was in Denver, Colorado, spraying trees right in the city. Picture a 20-year-old, who had only ever driven in a town with one traffic light, suddenly behind the wheel of a Ford F-550 with a 2,000 gallon tank on the back, in some of the worst traffic in America. This wasn’t exactly where I saw my career path going. The next summer, I was still desperately trying to get my foot in the Canadian forest industry door.

Action Item #2: Take a chance on the underdog
Enter Chad, who hired me for a summer position of working on tree plants, doing silviculture surveys and other odd forest jobs. He hired me sight unseen, with no relevant experience, based on a phone interview. I still thank him every time I see him for taking a chance on me. Because how can someone have experience if they can’t get experience? 

At the end of the summer, Chad and company admitted that they didn’t think I’d last two weeks when I first showed up (my social media handle is ‘The Littlest Forester’, after all), but were glad I did and they became my biggest champions. Not only did they ask me to come back, they also gave me a glowing reference that landed me my next job. You can do that for someone you’re impressed with too – help them move along, even if it’s not with your company. 

Those first experiences were close to 15 years ago for me now. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to have many different opportunities, and have tried not to turn any down.

Action Item #3: Accept challenges
This piece of advice is aimed at people who are starting out in their careers. You might have to move. You might have to do something unglamorous. You will have to work incredibly hard, but it will pay off to do more than what is expected of you. Every time you feel like you’re getting comfortable in your role, consider getting outside of your box and trying or learning something new. 

I’ve been a professional forester for 10 years now, and feel at home in the woods. I like being alone. So when an opportunity to host a web series called ‘Mighty Jobs’ came up, which included travelling to different countries, visiting random work sites – sometimes crowded with people – all the while being in front of a camera, it did not sound like my thing. Which is exactly why I ended up doing it. 

Yes, it’s scary to do something beyond your comfort zone, but there is a lot to be learned. Plus, it was a reminder that there’s a whole other world outside of my happy little forest I work in which has provided some valuable perspective. 

Action Item #4: Be a mentor or get a mentor
There have been countless people who have helped me immensely in my career so far. On the first day of my first real forestry job, I was sent to be a crew boss for a group of tree planters in the boreal forest. I had never worked a day on a tree plant, and everything I knew had been learned from a book, so needless to say I was feeling under-qualified.

Craig introduced me as “small but mighty” to the group and greatly improved my street cred. When visiting a harvest operation with Gord, the loggers asked him if it was ‘take your kid to work day.’ 

He said: “Actually, this is the woman who is responsible for writing the plan that will keep you employed.” Boom. 
Peter hired me for that job, writing a forest management plan for a 300,000-ha forest, was confident in my abilities when I wasn’t so sure and gave many great pep talks. Jeff was patient with my 100 daily questions when working in the woods and taught me all my woodland savviness. I could go on. Kindness makes a huge impact. 

Being a mentor can be hugely rewarding – imagine being partially responsible for someone else’s success. If you really care about the forests you work in, or the job that you do, take the time to share your knowledge so that it can continue to contribute when you retire. 

These are things that can’t be learned from a book, and chances are that you learned a lot from other people along the way. Maybe it’s time to return the favour. 

If you’re in the market for a mentor of your own, here’s a hint . . . ask someone. Chances are they won’t say no. Being keen makes people want to help you, so give that a try too. 

Action Item #5: Share your ideas
At every full-time job I’ve ever had, I’ve been the first female forester hired, and often been the only person under 50 in a room. I’m used to being a bit of an oddball. So I’d like to push this even further by suggesting crazy ideas like sharing the good stories that come out of the woods on social media – there are such good stories to tell! 

“But what if someone says something bad in return?” Even better, that’s an opportunity to point out how they are wrong. 

If you see room for improvement or an opportunity to try something new, identify tangible solutions. Diversity is key in a workplace, and you could be bringing a whole new perspective to the table. Something that seems obvious to you might not be to everyone else. Be completely aware that not every idea is a great one so don’t let rejection get you down either. 

Action Item #6: Be part of a community or build one
In 2015, my good friend Jessica Kaknevicius and I started an online community called Women in Wood. This started as somewhat of a joke and a rebuttal to the ‘Old Boys Club’ always present at forestry events. We were united by never having to wait in line for the bathroom.

Since then, the network has grown to almost 1,000 women working in, with and for the woods all over the world. There is also a website ( and Twitter account that features blog articles and stories from many inspiring women.

Members of this community have reported feeling empowered by the support they receive from each other, students are encouraged by seeing that women are doing these jobs, and many mentor–mentee relationships have been developed. The information that is shared among members is truly inspiring. From job posts to questions about field gear that fits women, and overcoming challenges faced in the workplace, Women in Wood rise to the challenge and provide each other with incredible support. 

For example, a woman who recently entered the field was facing a high level of anxiety working alone in bear country. She asked for advice from others who may have worked in similar situations. More than 40 women responded with tips and encouragement. I can really relate to this, as I felt the same when I started 15 years ago, but didn’t feel like I could say it out loud to anyone. 

The woman who asked the question expressed gratitude to those who reached out, said it meant a lot to know she wasn’t alone and wasn’t going to give up. It got me wondering how many people have given up on field work because of similar fears and having no one to talk to about it.   

But you don’t have to go online to build a community. It can be as simple as Friday beers with other forestry folks in your area. The human side of our sector is seriously amazing, in my opinion. We all get into this field because we “don’t want to work with people”, it seems. What a nice surprise that we end up surrounded by wonderful people who we actually want to be around. Let’s do more of that and support each other however we can.  

If you’ve gotten to the end of this story, thank you for reading. I delivered similar messages at the ICF Conference in Oxford this April, and feel fortunate to have met some UK foresters in the process. You seem like a great bunch, and it appears that the UK’s forests are in good hands.