Workforce, Diversity, and Inclusion. What does this mean for Tasmania’s Forest Industry?

The commitment to our future forest industry workforce by our industry was evident at the Workforce of the Future Workshop in Launceston on 16 March, where individuals from across the industry came together to discuss challenges and opportunities for our future workforce.

Simon Talbot, General Manager of the Tasmania Forestry Hub provided a thought provoking and comprehensive insight into the future demand for forest and wood products and how our Tasmanian industry can be “a true carbon solution with carbon farmers, carbon harvesters, carbon haulers, and carbon processors”. He highlighted that the workforce we have now is not the one we need to grow our industry to a 2050 Vision where “70% of our wood product is processed in Tasmania by a workforce of 9000 employees and capturing 1.6MT of solid wood CO2.”

How do we achieve this vision? Yes, we need investment in infrastructure, but we also need investment in people – the Workforce of the Future. What are the challenges and opportunities in attracting, recruiting, and retaining this future workforce? Where are the jobs of the future going to be? What skills do we need our future employees to have? The Workforce Development and Diversity Project is addressing these questions and more, in developing a Diversity Action Plan and in implementing the Forest Industry Workforce Development Plan.

Research tells us that projects in workforce and diversity require organisational change and leadership. We know that success requires industry ownership, alignment with other initiatives and strong governance structures. We also know that the workforce challenges facing our industry are not unique. They are universal, as highlighted by Dr Anna Carew, who is the Strategic Projects Manager – Capacity Building at Keystone Tasmania. In her presentation, Dr Carew provided an overview of the workforce opportunities and challenges faced by the Tasmanian building and construction sector. She highlighted the ‘Be Part of Building Something Big’ campaign that profiles inspirational people with interesting stories and bright futures from across the sector. Dr Carew’s engaging presentation was well received and prompted further interaction and questions.

Consultation with external stakeholders representing our future employees tells us there is limited understanding within our community of the breadth of careers in the forest industry. That there is confusion regarding entry points and training pathways. That job flexibility and access to transport are key drivers for future employees. We also know that understanding of the sector by individuals is increased by connection and exposure.

Our forestry stakeholders agree that the sector has challenges in attracting and retaining employees in what is a ‘stereotypically male-dominated’ industry. Increasing difficulty in recruiting highly skilled employees and attracting diversity to these roles have also been identified as challenges. There are also opportunities to promote the sector, to broaden its appeal, to highlight industry role-models and to ensure that the right people with the right skills and empathy are employed who can nurture inclusion.

The industry has identified actions to address the challenges and make the best of the opportunities identified within and outside the sector. These actions will form the basis of the Diversity Action Plan and will be focused on achieving the vision of “The forest and wood processing industry is an industry of choice that has a skilled workforce to support industry development.”

The Forest Industry Workforce Development and Diversity Project will be supported by a Reference Group representing a variety of stakeholders who will contribute industry and technical knowledge about issues relevant to the project.  This group is being formed through a combination of TFFPN nominated and self-nominated individuals via an Expression of Interest process.

The Workforce Development and Diversity Project for Tasmania’s forest industry is an exciting opportunity for Tasmania’s forest sector and will support its 2050 Vision. Through building solid foundations, engaging with industry, consulting widely, and developing realistic actions, it is possible to deliver a plan for the Workforce of the Future.

The recognition of the value of a diverse workforce by the sector, a strong will within the sector to undertake organisational change to build a supportive environment and leadership in implementation of actions within businesses, will provide the best opportunity for success moving forward.

More information is available on the links below: