Like many other sectors, the forest industry is currently facing a shortage in labour force resources. This shortage is forecasted to increase dramatically over the next 10 years as New Brunswick’s significant aging demographic moves into retirement. Approximately 100,000 workforce vacancies are anticipated in New Brunswick during this time, and only some will be filled by replacement and attrition. Multiple sectors are experiencing these labour pressures and recruiting to fill labour needs will continue to be challenging. Understanding the specific labour needs for the forest sector and attracting people to these opportunities is imperative to fill the labour gap. With strong competition from other sectors, making the forest sector attractive and attainable will be critical to success for the industry.
Forest NB and industry representatives are engaged with the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour to look at ways to effectively address the labour shortages faced by the forest sector. Forest industry participants have provided data for their forecasted labour needs over the next 5 years. It is evident that there will continue to be an increasing need across the sector in many areas and with significant needs in silviculture, harvesting operators and contractors, sawmill workers, and truck drivers and contractors in particular.
Focusing on these as priority occupations for the sector, the working group is developing an action plan for these critical occupations. The need for truck drivers spans many industries and a separate action plan is being developed for this to address the needs these needs. Aside from identifying which occupations will be in highest demand, the objective of these action plans is to identify existing and potential partners and to improve existing programs and training by identifying linkages and synergies. The outcome will be a roadmap for the forest sector to meet its labour force needs in coming years.
We are looking at multiple potential opportunities in three main areas: enhanced education at the high school and post-secondary levels, targeted immigration recruitment, and upskilling for underemployed or transitioning individuals. With the commitment and cooperation of all partners we are confident that implementing the initiatives in the action plan will move the needle significantly to fill the gaps in the forestry sector workforce. Stay tuned for more updates!
Kim Allen, Executive Director of Forest NB