YOU may have heard there’s currently a recruitment crisis in the UK.

It may be shortages of HGV drivers and fruit pickers – and the associated impact on Christmas – that get the most headlines, but it is a problem afflicting multiple industries across all skill levels.

The reasons are as varied as they are complex, from Brexit to the pandemic to stagnant wages and so much more. You may even have seen one recruitment chief blaming the pandemic for turning the nation’s workforce into a bunch of homebodies who would rather feed squirrels for the rest of their days than return to the office.

In forestry, the issue is real, acute and looks likely to get much worse before it gets better. The Institute of Chartered Foresters estimates 10,000 new recruits will have to be found to fill forestry roles in the next few years, to meet climate change and biodiversity targets. That’s likely before factoring in the numbers of contractors and skilled workers already turning their backs on the industry who will also need to be replaced.

Amid the recent clamour for increased tree planting and associated highly ambitious targets announced by politicians, a number of lingering questions have gone unanswered, all beginning with the same word: ‘who’. Not only ‘who will plant the trees?’, but ‘who will manage them to ensure they reach their potential?’ and ‘who will harvest them when the time comes?’.

Farmers and landowners are being bombarded with the message to grow woodland with little said about the knowledge required to make forestry successful or where to find it. The truth is, supplies of skilled foresters are already running low and spread thin. And enthusiastic amateurs – as much as they should be welcomed – are not going to achieve the kinds of targets we hope to see without assistance

Without serious investment to recruit and educate (and retain) the foresters of the future, this is one crisis with ramifications far beyond Christmas.

The skills shortage is one of many stories covered in the November issue of Forestry Journal. Others features include:

• Donald MacLean of the FCA speaks his mind on contracting issues;

• An in-depth look at a new tree disease pilot from the Forestry Commission;

• A profile of Perth-based Highfield Forestry;

• Our monthly Buyer’s Guide focusing on forestry fencing.

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