A Student Voice for Forestry
Elliot Hill of the Bangor Forestry Students Association, discusses the lack of awareness among school-leavers of forestry careers and building links between students and professionals.
In many walks of life, and indeed in jobs I have previously held, there is often a hierarchal ‘glass ceiling’ that prevents one group of people conversing equally with another, regardless of them having the same goal. This isn’t the case with forestry. When helping out at the recent ICF careers exhibition at the Royal Welsh Show, I was instantly engaged and having many an interesting conversation with forest worker, director, saw-miller and professor alike. It’s as if there seems to be a mutual understanding, that like components of a forest, every position in forestry is as crucial as the next in the pursuit of the industries continued success. The ICF’s stand was a showcase of information regarding forestry courses and job prospects from many of the major learning institutions in the UK, including Warwickshire College, University of Cumbria, University of the Highlands and Islands, Harper Adams University, University of Bangor, and the ICF themselves. It is no secret that there is often some rivalry between learning institutions, however if it was present here it certainly was not felt, and even though I am only currently a student member, I was made to feel very welcome and valued. It was a huge success, with many enquiries into how to access the wealth of learning materials available and making people aware of the paths they could follow into forestry.
It is my opinion that forestry is significantly under-represented in our nation’s schooling system, and many of the people visiting our stand confessed that they had never considered a career in forestry, or hadn’t known how to pursue one. Indeed, when I myself came to leave college I was disillusioned with the schooling system that did not explore the wealth of higher education courses available past the ‘core’ school subjects. I happened upon my path to forestry by chance, but I often wonder how many miss their chance, and never know the life and career that could have awaited them in the forestry industry. At such a crucial time for forestry, and with unemployment in our nation rising, it is fundamentally important to try and raise awareness of the growing need for forestry professionals, a cause that is now being championed by the ICF.
I study Bsc Forestry at Bangor University, currently entering in to my second year. I represent my peers in forestry on the student council as a course representative. I believe it is extremely important to have a voice for forestry, especially as the forestry department is comparatively small in student numbers next to other subjects in the school of natural resources. Bangor also has its very own forestry society, the Bangor Forestry Students Association (BFSA), which is open to all students regardless of their course, and is free to join. The society has a strong, enthusiastic and motivated committee and member-base, who are constantly searching for new ways to enhance student experience, from guest speakers throughout the year to a Christmas tree planting programme that allows students to mix their academic knowledge with practical skills. This coming year, everyone at the BFSA would love to see more involvement with the wider world of forestry, making our members more aware of the opportunities available to them, be it the Royal Welsh Show or ICF’s National Study Tour, which is on our doorstep this October. It is also our desire that forestry and arboriculture students across the country become more connected, share our experiences and knowledge, and stay connected for the ever-more prosperous future of forestry.