Low enrolment in undergraduate FORESTRY programs at Canadian universities is causing concern to all who care about sustainable forest management.
After a strong increase in forestry undergraduate enrolment across Canada during the 1990s, the number of graduates from Canada’s university forestry programs has decreased by almost 30% over the past five years, and overall enrolment has decreased even more. All forestry schools have initiated active recruitment programs, and preliminary application numbers seem to indicate that we are beginning to see a renewed interest in forestry education.
When we talk to high school students, teachers, and the public, we find that most people have little or no knowledge about forestry or what a career in forestry entails. Those who have some knowledge about forestry stereotypically equate it with low technology and low-brow work; they think of it as a “sunset” career dealing only with the cutting and planting of trees. Another misconception is that forestry is for males, when actually over 30% of our students are female, and the share is continually increasing.
Forestry is the science, art, and business of sustainably managing our forests for all of the multiple uses and values required by society for its social, biophysical, and economic well-being. Such a broad mandate requires professional foresters to be responsible for the health of our forest environment, while meeting economic and other societal needs. This role will be greatly expanded as demands increase for clean water and air, sustainable ecosystems, and controlling atmospheric carbon dioxide.
We need to sell careers in forestry as "smart" careers for the future – careers that are innovative, progressive, and high-tech. It is a career to pursue if you have a love for the outdoors and the environment, and a desire to do something interesting that also does good for society. Forestry students graduate with a science-based degree that is practical and has a sound foundation in problem solving, management, and business. A forestry education leads to a career and a profession while also providing the opportunity for excellent summer and co-op jobs to help offset education costs. The breadth and practical aspect of the programs open many doors, not only those associated with “traditional” forestry. Graduates can also elect to continue their studies at the graduate level in forestry or other science-based fields, or in professional programs such as education, business, and law.
graduates are truly global citizens
We also need to promote the case that forestry graduates enjoy excellent employment opportunities (http://jobfutures.ca/fos/U641p3.shtml
); in fact, a recent National Employer Demand Survey (CCFM Deputies Committee, 2004) indicates there will be a shortage of forestry graduates in the future. Whether forestry graduates provide expertise in the more traditional fields associated with forestry such as environmental planning and forest management, or whether they become scientists, conservationists, entrepreneurs, policy makers, or educators, today’s forestry graduates are truly global citizens for change. They are innovators, creating real-world solutions in many diverse disciplines.
To promote careers in forestry and forestry education, the Faculty of Forestry and the Forest Environment at Lakehead has embarked on a major marketing and recruitment program with the assistance of the Canadian Forest Service (CFS), the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM), the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), the forest industry, and the Ontario Professional Foresters Association (OPFA). The theme of our program is "Clearcut? No! Today’s forestry issues are far more complex than they used to be."
Our marketing package includes a CD-ROM that can be presented and distributed to multiple audiences at multiple venues. The CD-ROM contains basic information about today’s forestry and the diverse careers it can lead to, and has direct links to Lakehead’s redesigned website. The marketing package was designed to provide material for presentation and distribution by alumni, professional foresters, and student ambassadors when talking to students about forestry and the opportunities available. If you are interested in helping us promote forestry, or would like to receive a copy of our CDROM, please contact me. If you know anyone thinking about forestry, please direct them to our website at (www.lakeheadforestry.ca
) to discover today's forestry.
Lakehead University and forestry professionals need to communicate what forestry is really about, and to raise awareness of the diverse careers open to professional foresters. Only then will we shed the old stereotypical impressions associated with forestry, and attract the students we need to ensure sustainable forest management in the future.
Reino Pulkki is Dean of the Faculty of Forestry and the Forest Environment at Lakehead University and a graduate of the Forestry program. He can be reached by telephone at (807) 343-8564 and by email: firstname.lastname@example.org