Forestry jobs boost for employers

It is hoped a new scheme will encourage private sector companies to take a chance on young people

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The forestry sector is leading the way in helping employers secure public funding to recruit more young people into the industry.

Under a Growing Rural Talent initiative, backed by national funding, forestry companies are being encouraged to take on new young staff.

By offering generous subsidies, the initiative is funded under the Scottish Government’s Kickstart programme and its Young Person’s Guarantee.

Those aged 16 to 24 face a growing unemployment rate, exacerbated by coronavirus.

A partnership has so far involved Dumfries & Galloway Council, Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Forestry, Lantra Scotland and Forestry and Land Scotland.

It will now align with the Growing Rural Talent initiative to be rolled out nationwide.

It provides up to 100 per cent financial support to private sector employers for the first six month period, then at a rate of 50 per cent for a further six months, dependent on an actual job opportunity.

There is also a £1,500 training budget for each person which will help to prepare them to work in a forestry situation.

Scottish Forestry is also due to take on six undergraduate assistant woodland officers in the New Year.

Forestry and Land Scotland is also recruiting more than 30 new apprentices in 2021.

In addition, a new ‘forestry careers toolkit’ to help employers in the sector attract new talent is being prepared by Scottish Forestry. It is expected to be launched in the New Year.

The initiatives were discussed in the recent ‘Forestry Jobs Summit’ involving rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing and key forestry organisations.

Already, forestry companies including Tilhill, Egger and James Jones and Sons, are providing new young recruits an exciting first step into forestry.

During the summit, companies have been confirming their plans to offer opportunities to new starters.

Mr Ewing said: ‘The forestry sector in Scotland is a success story. It generates around £1 billion to the economy each year and supports around 25,000 jobs.

‘Timber production levels are increasing and in the years to come we will need to have a young skilled workforce in place to meet demand.

‘I am pleased Scottish Forestry and Forestry and Land Scotland have doubled their intake of opportunities for young people.

‘This is a great start and I’m encouraged two other companies have confirmed their plans to take on young people.

‘It is welcome news the private sector is helping new people into the industry. I hope we can build on this and offer many more similar opportunities.’

Stuart Goodall, chief executive of forestry and wood trade body Confor, said: ‘Forestry and wood processing is a sector on the up and very much of its time.

‘By planting more trees, managing them well and using more home-grown wood, we can lock up carbon to help Scotland achieve its world-leading climate change targets.

‘The drive to reach net zero by 2045 means we will need many more low-carbon businesses and far more young people with a wide range of forestry and wood-using skills who want to be part of this ambitious, exciting journey.’

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