Meeting the Next Generation of Forest Leaders
Russell Horsey, ICF Deputy Director, reflects on his time as an urban forestry student, and asks how, as a sector, we can better work together to promote this hugely rewarding career path.
Winners of the 2014 Prince of Wales Forest Leadership Award meet His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales
It was a busy week last week. I have been lucky enough to be involved in helping set up a new exchange program for young foresters and arboriculturists. Endorsed by the Prince of Wales and in partnership with the Canadian Institute of Forestry, The Duchy of Cornwall and the Institute of Chartered Foresters, the inaugural Prince of Wales Forest Leadership Award winners, from Canada and the UK, met in London prior to starting their work placements across the West of England, British Columbia and Algonquin Provincial Park.
It was inspiring to see the enthusiasm of these future foresters, which brought me back to my own time as a student choosing my career path. I always knew I wanted to work with trees, but was never sure quite how I would go about it. The environment sector was still fairly young, dirty, and not that well paid. Thankfully this has changed, and there are lots of great careers on offer today. While not every job will make you a millionaire, there are lots of well-paid rewarding jobs out there. Some roles are still dirty, but you can’t plant a tree well unless you get your hands dirty and our towns, cities and countryside still have space for a lot more trees and woods.
When I graduated jobs were quite scarce, but today, thanks to initiatives like Grown in Britain promoting the use of UK timber, there are now more jobs than graduates – ironically something that presents a new problem for the industry. Many other professions have stolen a march on the environmental sector and we need to do more to promote the great opportunities on offer. It was really exciting to meet the first four winners of the new student award and to hear their thoughts and aspirations for the future.
Russell helps with a school tree planting as part of Ride for Research 2014 (copyright Mick Boddy)
Now that I have young children, I always try and get them involved in a community tree planting event every autumn. My love of working in the environment may be rubbing off as my daughter recently found a slow worm which she carefully brought into our house to show her brother and parents. My wife was shocked to put it bluntly, and we now have a new rule “no snakes in the house”. My daughter thought this was hilarious and I am sure is now on the lookout for an even bigger one to show her mum.
So how did I find my career? Kind of by accident I guess. I eventually stumbled onto a good undergraduate course at Brighton University and then was lucky enough to do a masters looking at urban forestry at the University of Toronto. My recollection of my early careers advice was that as I liked money and working outdoors I should either be a banker or a gardener (slightly different ends of the career spectrum). Was this the fault of my early careers advisor – with what I know now, probably not. With the huge amount of jobs out there those sectors that shout the loudest get heard, and my parents were never quite sure that a job in the environmental sector would ever lead to anything substantial.
Russell and Julian Evans FICFor man the stand at the 2014 Royal Welsh Show
So as a sector we need to do more to promote what we have to offer, and with the prospect of tuition fees for many students, the fact that there are well paid jobs at the end working with trees should be a plus. So if you are reading this post and if you know of a young person struggling to decide what to do, or you are talking to parents over dinner who are despairing that their kids can’t make their minds up on a career, I can honestly say that working with trees is worth a look and can definitely take you places.
There is lots of great career information out there, but your careers advisor may not be aware of it. If you are at the Royal Welsh Show this year, come and see a group of Universities working together with professional urban and rural foresters to promote the current crop of courses in the Forestry Area on stand FOR781.
So as the first four winners start out on their placements this week, I look forward to following their careers and seeing where they go, and more importantly the changes in perceptions of forestry careers that they help implement. For anyone interested in finding out more about this exciting award, information can be found at www.charteredforesters.org/forest-leaders.
Representatives TD Bank, ICF and the Canadian Institute of Forestry meet The Prince of Wales.