When Jake Davis has to decide what to do after high school, he’ll have a good feel for the forestry industry.
The Grade 11 student was one of more than 30 students from Englehart, Iroquois Falls and Matachewan First Nation to take part in the Forestry Connects program in Timmins this week.
The two-day program brought the youth to an EACOM woodland area west of town on Malette Road, and took them on tours of the EACOM sawmill and Millsons Forestry.
For Davis, whose interest is in mechanics, the experience let him see there are opportunities in forestry.
“All the employers were very thorough with showing us the jobs, the different opportunities, and even the salaries,” he said.
Being enrolled in the resource and forestry technology program at Englehart High School, he already has an understanding of the industry.
That knowledge has made the Forestry Connects program different for the Northern Ontario students, according to Forests Ontario education outreach coordinator Andrea Curley.
When the non-profit offers the program in southern Ontario, she said the talks start with the basics.
“What I like about these students is that they had a forestry background, so they could engage with the operators a little bit more. When they’re sitting in these machines, they kind of have a background, so it was great to see that,” she said.
The free program is offered to give students exposure to careers in the industry.
“It also shows that this is a sustainable initiative, I think that especially in Ontario sometimes there’s a negative connotation with lumber and that we’re clean-cutting forests, but it’s showing that this is not the situation. We’re not just knocking down trees, we’re able to use timber products while still having sustainable outcomes,” she said.
For EACOM, public affairs director Christine Leduc said initiatives like this are important to show the community how the company is managing the forests, which are a public resource.
With a growing workforce, there are other potential benefits.
“EACOM has recruitment challenges, the whole industry has recruitment challenges, so these are the kinds of initiatives when you’re connecting youth to the forests and letting them learn about the industry and about the potential opportunities, it can be very positive for us to meet our future recruitment goals,” she said.
In the field, she noted the contractors were very generous with their time, letting the students get into the machines.
“I think the contractors are struggling with succession planning and recruitment just as much as we are, so it’s in all of our interests that we take some time and connect with the next generation and show them what the opportunities are,” said Leduc.
In the future, she said EACOM would like to see more of these initiatives. She said the company is also hoping to get creative with the community events and youth engagement that it does.