Promoting Forestry Beyond Chainsaws

After being discouraged from studying forestry at school, Bangor Student Samantha Howard discovered a sector with a wide breadth of career choices and possibilities. Now Samantha is trying to spread the word to other young people with her Making Future Foresters Facebook project.

“So you cut down trees?” A familiar question for many foresters. The forestry sector has been struggling to spread awareness regarding what it does and why it is so important. The first part of our job that people recall is that we cut down trees. Despite being a big part of UK history; in boat building, house building and gunpowder production. We are also at the centre of and support many sports, craft and food industries. In addition to this, our woodlands have protected archaeology and woodland ecology from further damage.

We have many answers to big population problems such as our fitness and health across the population. In the past year, we have been seen to have an answer to flooding, and this could be extended to climate change if more research could be made available to the general public. However, for our sector to be successful, involved and considered, we need to spread awareness of our work. That is all our roles, and not just the planters or the harvesters. A lot of people are employed in this sector and even now, as I return to study at Bangor University after a placement year; I can’t say that I can fully understand its full expanse.

When choosing to study forestry, my teachers were trying to discourage me and this was due to specialisation so early on, which is understandable. Except is it? The sector is massive and offers a wide range of opportunities, for so many different types of people. In Europe, there are universities dedicated to forestry. Is this just because their sectors are bigger or because the general population puts more value to their work?

So where could we start?

Start where you live – talk about what you do and why it is important – to the people at the gym, at your church. Talk to your children and their friends and show them pictures. Maybe you could help a local scout group complete their Forester activity badges or take them for a walk through a local wood. Maybe you could give a talk at your old school or your child’s school.

Somehow we need to get the whole story over and explain why trees sometimes need to be removed to keep a wood healthy. Why planting isn’t always a good idea in some locations. This could eventually mean there is more understanding and co-orperation with the general public.

What can I tell people that want to get involved with the industry?

There are a lot of opportunities, whether as an apprentice after leaving school or by going to college or university. A lot of information young people need is being collated by the Future Foresters Project and I have been trying to put together a separate Facebook page to bring videos and links together to help spread understanding and awareness of the sector. Please feel free to post a short story about what you do, you can also message me with a post for the page if you wish to remain anonymous.

Who wrote this blog?

I am a current Bangor University BSc(Hons) Forestry with Placement student and I will be graduating July 2017. I put together the page in response to a discussion at the Urban Forestry Conference in Birmingham in 2014; with the ICF President. He was asking students for advice on getting younger people involved. Traditional woodland craft and the use of wood for timber framed buildings; was a major motivation for me to join the industry. I also studied psychology for 5 years before starting my degree which has encouraged me to look at the benefits for mental health within our woodlands.

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