Scottish Environment Minister responds to skills position paper

We are pleased to have received another response to our position paper, Can’t See the Skills for the Trees, this time from Scotland’s Minister for Environment, Biodiversity and Land Reform, Màiri McAllan.

The Insitute’s Executive Director, Shireen Chambers MBE FICFor, and Senior Policy Manager, Jemima Cooper, had a collaborative meeting with Ms McAllan on 16 November. They were joined by senior staff from Forestry and Land Scotland, Scottish Forestry and the Scottish Government where they discussed how to get more young people, particularly women, into the sector. Ms McAllan was particularly interested in the idea of a leadership scheme and a Forestry Hub, mentioned in her letter, and was committed to working with the Institute on the skills agenda.

Please read her official response below.

12 November 2021

Dear Jemima,

Thank you for your letter of 13th October expressing concerns about the current shortage of skilled workers in the forestry sector.

I agree that education, skills and professionalism in the forestry sector are central to the Scottish Government’s commitment to end our contribution to climate change within a generation. The risks you point out are certainly a concern so I support your view that we must seek ways to increase the number and diversity of new entrants, train them in the right subjects and to the appropriate level. As you say the existing workforce must also play their part in providing student placements and embedding workbased learning within their organisation. I acknowledge the key contribution the Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF) already makes to ensure that members keep abreast of changes and maintain their skills.

As you may be aware a priority action (100-day commitment) from the SNP Manifesto was to establish a Commission to undertake a root and branch review of land-based learning from early years to adulthood to provide opportunities and qualifications through school, college, university and work-based learning, including apprenticeships for more people, and specifically more women, to work with and on the land, particularly in green skills. The Commission was kicked off recently and will report in December 2022. It has strong representation from the forestry sector and will address many of the points you raise.

In the meantime however, your position paper offers three immediate actions:

  1. Fund the development of a new Forestry Training Hub to foster higher education connections, employer networks, links between academia and business, good practice and online learning, and to act as a resource for businesses to engage with apprenticeships.There seem to be several variants of a Forestry Training Hub being discussed within the sector. Further discussion of a Training Hub would be greatly assisted by a single clear business plan that had sector-wide support within Scotland.
  2. Mobilise a national recruitment campaign about working with trees to encourage more young people and career changers into training for careers that address the climate crisis and green recovery.The Skills Action Plan developed by the Scottish Forest and Timber Technologies Industry Leadership Group includes a marketing campaign. I believe this is now being taken forward in Scotland by Lantra on behalf of the Industry Leadership Group. Although the following actions are not brigaded as a recruitment campaign, they demonstrate our commitment to increasing the number and diversity of recruits: Scottish Forestry has produced a Forestry Careers Toolkit, supported the Young Scot initiative which has now created a series of short videos on forestry, and is working with Skills Development Scotland to include examples of a wide range of forestry careers within the ‘Green Jobs’ banner on the My World of Work website which is used throughout Scotland by careers advisors. Forestry and Land Scotland has a well organised apprenticeship programme focussed on the foundation and modern apprenticeship levels while Scottish Forestry is actively investigating pre-apprenticeships and graduate forestry apprenticeships in Scotland. While more needs to be done, I hope this reassures you that we are committed to increasing the number of young people and career changers so that they can play their part in addressing climate change and the green recovery.
  3. Support the delivery of a leadership training programme to ensure strong, long-term, inspirational leadership for delivering on the climate change agenda.I appreciate the ICF’s actions, including the creation of a technical membership category and would see the Institute as having a natural role in this area I would be interested to hear more of your ideas about the leadership programme you envisage.

I understand that we are scheduled to meet on 16th November which is an opportunity to discuss these issues further.

Yours sincerely,




See below to read the response from the Minister for Forestry and the Minister for Skills in England.

ReadLord Goldsmith’s (Defra) response

ReadAlex Burghart MP’s (Department for Education) response

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