A new board has been formed to develop a skilled and professional workforce for the forest industry, a mission of the newly-branded Forestry Sector Council (FSC).
The council held its first Annual General Meeting June 23 and appointed a nine-person board of directors. Among them are two familiar names to anyone involved in the forest industry along the South Shore.
Marcus Zwicker, Chief Operating Officer of Freeman Lumber in Greenfield, and David Meister, a forestry professional who operates a sixth-generation forestry operation in New Ross, have been selected as part of the board.
Five of the directors are women and all have a wide range of backgrounds and skills, according to Heather Boyd, executive director for the FSC who was hired in January to lead the council’s branding effort.
“It’s really about developing the workforce. Our three strategic priorities are human resource planning or succession planning, attraction and retention and training, and skill development,” Boyd said in a phone interview. She added that the support is mainly for small-and-medium-sized businesses.
The FSC is a re-branding of an entity that can be traced back to the Nova Scotia Forest Industry Regional Industrial Training Committee (RITC) that was formed in 1989.
In 2000, the RITCs evolved into sector councils and it evolved into the Nova Scotia Forestry Human Resources Sector Council. Last April, the organization was re-branded to the FSC, a not-for-profit organization.
Prior to the appointment of the new board, interim management was provided by the executive of Forest Nova Scotia.
“I am not sure why, but activity just fizzled out and the organization was dormant for a number of years, but with the Northern Pulp closure and other challenges in the industry, the need is obvious,” said Boyd, who’s tasked with helping to build board governance and get operations established.
“There’s lots of work to do as far as professionalizing the industry goes, updating training skills and development,” explained Boyd, noting that one of the board’s priorities will be developing an apprenticeship program for the industry.
“That’s the role of the sector council — for us to say, ‘Here is industry speaking and this is what they need,’” said Boyd. “Then we will work with the apprenticeship agency with the development.”
The FSC receives its core funding through the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education’s Sector Council Program. It is also a part of the Association of Industry Sector Councils.
Boyd explained that with the closure of Northern Pulp and an aging workforce, the time is ripe for the organization to step up for the industry.
“I think, as in other industries, there is an aging demographic in our province where people have been doing what they’ve done for a long time,” she said. “For the younger, upcoming generations, they don’t have a job-for-life mentality anymore, and forestry is just that. The industry is facing change and I think this is an amazing opportunity, just with the time we are in and I think we can make a significant amount of difference in the industry.”
Parallel to the focus of the FSC, a new initiative, the Centre of Forest Innovation, was announced on June 28. The centre will be operated by the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) to advance the shift to ecological forestry practices in the province and to train the next generation of forestry professionals.
“I think it’s an amazing opportunity to have that resource here in the province to help train workers in the industry,” said Boyd, who added that though the FSC was not a part of this announcement it was supportive of it.
The Forestry Innovation Transition Trust is investing $6.1 million over the next four years for NSCC to establish the centre at its Truro Campus.
The centre will be completed June 2022 and will open to students the following school year.
Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin