Forest innovation centre will aim to train workers for industry's future

·3 min read
A worker oversees the unloading of logs at Ledwidge Lumber in Enfield, N.S. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
A worker oversees the unloading of logs at Ledwidge Lumber in Enfield, N.S. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotia Community College is launching a forest innovation centre as the provincial government continues its efforts to help shift the sector to a more ecological way of doing business.

The community college is getting $6.1 million over four years from the provincial forestry innovation transition trust. The aim is to help the sector shift to ecological forestry practices and provide a variety of research and training opportunities.

NSCC president Don Bureaux said programming is being developed in consultation with industry, including non-profit groups, to make sure courses meet the needs of the sector and the province's policy direction.

"This centre will be focused on implementing the Lahey report," he said.

"We have a vision at the college. We respect and we agree with the Lahey report and we want to work with our industry partners towards those goals."

Robert Short/CBC
Robert Short/CBC

The centre, scheduled to open to students in September 2022, will be based at the college's Truro campus.

Attracting and training professionals was one of the recommendations in the report University of King's College president Bill Lahey released almost three years ago.

Rosalind Penfound, chair of the trust, said the NSCC proposal is a way to create sustainable economic growth for the forestry sector while also advancing the calls in the Lahey report for a more ecological approach to working the woods that included less clearcutting.

"We're looking for things that will have lasting impact," she said.

"The track record that NSCC has and its provincial reach convinced us that they were more than capable of pulling this thing off.

Robert Short/CBC
Robert Short/CBC

To date, the trust has funded seven projects to the tune of $10.4 million from the available $50 million. Penfound said another general call for applications is coming in August, although she said more targeted proposal calls could happen if that's deemed useful.

Premier Iain Rankin said the centre would be "a cornerstone" for the sector that would help provide training for people looking to enter the industry or upgrade existing skills.

Rankin said one aim of the centre will be to expand the diversity of people getting involved in the sector, with a focus on women, Black and Indigenous students.

"We need to be part of training that future workforce," he said.

"Ordinarily, people have to leave the province and go to New Brunswick to get similar type training. We need that training here."

Robert Short/CBC
Robert Short/CBC

The linchpin of the Lahey report — the creation of a three-pronged system that divides Crown land into areas to be protected, areas for industrial forestry and areas for soft-touch forestry — remains in development.

Rankin has previously pledged to have that system in place by the end of the year, although he said on Monday there is no date yet for when that will happen. Lahey is scheduled to provide an interim update on the government's process implementing his report, although it's not clear when that will happen.

Monday's event was one of four government announcements to kick off the week.

The government reiterated financial support for a study on using electric buses in Cape Breton Regional Municipality, pledged money to help the town of Kentville complete its active transportation network and expanded the eligibility for the caregiver's benefit.

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