Tilhill Forestry, November, 2019

Forestry – A Path Worth Pursuing

Rob Coltman, Assistant Forest Manager at the Future Forestry Skills Day

Last month I attended the Royal Forestry Society ‘Future Forestry Skills Day. The events aim was to promote forestry and arboriculture to students studying related subjects or those who have recently begun working in the field. The day was split between a morning of talks from industry figures and an afternoon show of exhibitors from across the forestry spectrum. I spent the afternoon on a stand representing private forestry company Tilhill Forestry, promoting the company I work for and our Graduate Development Programme. I’m a recent entry into the industry myself and previously worked in education as a Forest School leader. I have a great passion for getting people into forests in order to learn about them and consequently thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to advocate forestry as a good career choice.

I met many curious students enquiring about what Tilhill Forestry do. I was impressed by the level of their engagement, especially when competing with the neighbouring Stihl exhibit who had virtual reality chainsaws. We did have free pens, though!

Before I began studying forestry, I had little previous experience and no real connection to anyone in the industry. I remember feeling like the idea of actually working in forestry was quite abstract; I just couldn’t imagine what it might be like. I guess the elusive nature of forestry is due in part to the size of the industry relative to others in the UK – especially where I’m from in the south of England. However, now I’m on the other side of the fence, I realised that it is a growing industry and that there’s a shortage of students and graduates who’ve been trained in forestry subjects to fill job roles. In addition to this, there’s an ageing industry workforce resulting in a greater need for individuals to step in and develop to become the experienced professionals of the future.

So, how do we promote forestry to the next generation? What makes our industry an attractive prospect to those seeking an interesting and meaningful career?

Luckily for me, Tilhill Forestry provide me this blog platform to share my thoughts on, so I’m going to take the opportunity to offer some of my opinions. These are some of the things I think we should be promoting to those considering a path into the forest industry:

  1. We get to be outside
    In an increasingly indoor and sedentary human world, working in forestry offers the opportunity to get out. Often, you are in beautiful places with a lot of space, fresh air, the ability to move around, observing and interacting with the landscape in a way that is simply not possible in many fields of work.
    Don’t worry if you don’t love being outside all the time, there are plenty of roles that have you in all sorts of environments – and there always seems to be at least some paperwork to do…

  2. There is a real variety of roles available
    Forestry is a broad church and the diversity of roles available is dizzying.
    As an Assistant Forest Manager with Tilhill Forestry, I can honestly say there are some days when I feel like I wish there was actually a tiny bit less variety! (N.B. I promise I’m not complaining). A forest manager is part silviculturalist, businessperson, health-and-safety-implementer, ecologist, cartographer and communicator. All the while keeping up to date with new industry innovations, novel tree species research, biosecurity considerations and grant system updates. And that’s just one position. There’s so much out there on offer. We need new, dynamic people to fulfil the roles – there is a lot of space available!
  3. You can make a positive difference
    There is, rightly, a lot of concern about our deteriorating environment. The Climate Emergency has been firmly acknowledged by the forestry industry. Foresters are working on solutions to mitigate and adapt to the changes in climate we are experiencing to protect ecology and economy alike. At the heart of good forest management is the concept of sustainability. A job in forestry can provide the opportunity to play a part in authentic positive land management and a chance to make a difference in a world that sorely needs this.

If you’re wondering where to go next in your career, give forestry a thought. I’d really say it’s really worth considering. There’s something for most people, there’s a chance to make a difference - and you get to go outside. What’s not to love?

See you in the woods.