The need to recruit 3,000 new entrants to the forestry sector by 2025 – and a potential solution in the form of the UK’s military veterans – was the focus of the latest meeting of the APPGF.

Following a lengthy discussion, attendees had the chance to ask questions of the gathered panel. 

READ MORE: Could military leavers be the solution to forestry's skills shortages?

You can read our in-depth report here. 

Q. “Scott, do you think people know forestry jobs are out there?”
A. Scott Cooper, Forestry England: “Ex-service colleagues do not know to look on the civil service website for jobs within Forestry England. They are not well advertised.”

Q. “Richard, are there any further ‘asks’ in order for you to get the knowledge of forestry out there?”
A. Richard Hunter, Confor: “For all aspects of forestry, we need to show people how they can play a role within it. The military, career-changers, and young people, we need to show that forestry is a career, to ensure entry routes are available, and signpost the next steps – a course or college. The APPG must consider how to support colleges. Only three UK universities offer forestry (Bangor, Cumbria/Ambleside and UHI Inverness). The others lost their provision through lack of numbers. The ‘growing of timber’ element is being lost. There is nowhere for new people to train.”

Comment by Lord Colgrain, an APPG vice-chair: “Physically having equipment to show students seems to make a difference. In Kent, Hadlow College (land-based college) has a big campus. Kent has an increasing number of woodchip power stations, so there is commercial work. Kent also has a number of regiments. Might it be worth making a representation to Hadlow to showcase forestry in the South East?”
RH: “Absolutely. We need to engage colleges and support them. They are businesses, finance driven, and a forestry course is an expensive cost with low student numbers, so we must consider how to develop the finance, otherwise they won’t touch forestry. The ‘ask’ is more research and more investment for those points of contact. If we lose a student at 15 years old, or a career-changer at the point of change, we don’t see them again for 10 or 15 years, if ever.  We can’t afford to lose people at those transition points in their lives.”

Comment by Lord Clark, an APPG vice-chair: “Charles, there are three colleges down the eastern side of Cumbria, but a large population in the west. A large number of 16–18 year olds are going into the services because it is the only job they can actually find.”
A: Charles Bushby, Scottish Woodlands: “There is a huge problem recruiting into forestry. On the west coast, we have gone into schools to give students (17–18-year-olds) an idea of forestry. Scottish Woodlands recruits from abroad (Australia, America, Belgium) and from the military (an ex-commando and an ex-paratrooper). We have taken biologists, scientists, geographers and a dentist. All come via different routes and have a rewarding career. It is an easy industry to move into once you have the basics right.”

Q. “Scott, is practical experience – getting people onto the tools – a game changer in getting somebody to make that decision?”
A. SC: “Yes. Seeing the machinery, they then know what they are up against. Cab working can be lonely, out for 11 hours a day by yourself. Not everyone enjoys that, but getting people out there and seeing equipment working helps us.”