The Canadian forest sector, including pulp and paper, is staring a severe labor shortage in the face. According to the Forest Products Sector Council (FPSC) Labor Market Intelligence Report, one of the biggest challenges for employers will be replacing all the baby-boomer workers who are expected to retire. The FPSC estimates that more than 50,000 workers, approximately one-third of the current workforce, will leave the sector in the next 10 years. When the number of new hires due to attrition are added to the projected number of workers needed as the economy recovers, anywhere from 40,000 to 120,000 new employees will be required in the coming decade.
The forest industry has not been sitting on its hands, however; it has been busy developing new ways to attract the workers it will need. For example, the Forest Products Association of Canada’s (FPAC) Vision2020 leadership project has a goal of recruiting an additional 60,000 workers by the end of the decade, with an emphasis on women, new Canadians and Aboriginals.
“We’re repositioning the forest sector to be more attractive to a new generation of workers,” said FPAC President and CEO David Lindsay. “We have to, because we’re competing with all the other resource industries in Canada for the same pool of workers.”
To attract indigenous youth to the forest industry, FPAC established a skills award. In September 2012, Baillie Redfern, an M.Sc graduate student in genome science and technology at the University of British Columbia, became the first winner of the annual Skills Award for Indigenous Youth. Redfern, a member of the Painted Feather Woodland Metis Tribe in Ontario, is studying how to use bio-ingredients from wood fibre to create bio-products such as pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
The $2,500 award is targeted at youth from 18 to 25 who are enrolled in an apprenticeship program, college or university and who are First Nations, Métis or Inuit with a strong academic standing.
FPAC pushes the green dream
At PaperWeek Canada 2013, which takes place in Montreal in February, The Greenest Workforce (TGW) is being launched. A joint FPAC-FPSC initiative, TGW is a marketing and communications campaign to attract new workers and help re-brand the forest industry as a dynamic and innovative place to work. The project features Green Dream, in which up to eight internships will be offered with FPAC member companies.
“Green Dream will challenge young applicants to submit a video on why they should get an internship in this future-oriented and environmentally progressive industry,” said FPAC’s Susan Murray. “The videos will be posted to YouTube and winning contestant will be expected to blog about their experience working for the forest industry.”
PaperWeek Canada 2013 will also feature a job fair, for the first time in its 99-year history. PAPTAC executive director Gregoire Hay says he is expecting about a dozen employers and perhaps hundreds of students and other job-seekers at the fair.
Selling skilled trades to students
On the other side of the country, in British Columbia, Rob Jarvis, manager of talent and employee development in the Prince George office of Canadian Forest Products Ltd., says his company is busy developing a recruitment and retention strategy for all of its mills.
“We have1,000 salaried employees, of whom 25% are expected to retire by 2020, and 3,500 hourly employees, and 20% of them are expected to retire,” Jarvis said.
Jarvis says Canfor’s recruitment efforts combine marketing and human resources (HR). The company is a sponsor of the Trades – It’s a Smart Move initiative, which was launched in September 2012. The campaign goes into schools in and around Prince George and tells students that trades provide a career path to high-paying jobs and mobility.
In 2012, Canfor hosted information events at University of British Columbia, British Columbia Institute of Technology and the University of Northern British Columbia.
“Between 10 and 12 Canfor employees, including senior executives, went out and talked to students,” Jarvis said. “It’s a way to get the face of the company in front of prospective employees.”
Jarvis says the sessions were of great value and that Canfor plans to do at least as many in 2013.
Canfor has also been attending trade fairs. “We went to about 20 in the last year, in B.C., Alberta, Ireland and California,” he said.
On the digital front, Canfor updated its web site and hired a young social media expert who is working on branding the company in such social media as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
“We’re putting a lot of energy into getting our brand out,” Jarvis said.
Be a good corporate citizen
Resolute Forest Products says that, as environmental and social concerns gain a higher profile, it has become important for companies to demonstrate good corporate citizenship in order to attract and retain the best talent. As a result,
Resolute will continue to demonstrate its commitment to socially and environmentally responsible business practices.
Between 2012 and 2014, Resolute expects it will need to fill 2,500 positions – 25% of its workforce – primarily as a result of employee retirements.
The company has launched a long-term strategy to revitalize its recruitment processes. In 2011, Resolute conducted an HR survey to better understand how to improve recruitment at the local level. It also developed an HR strategy to retain and engage existing employees.
Melissa Picard, HR initiatives advisor, cites herself as an example of Resolute’s commitment to employee growth and retention.
“After working for a Montreal HR consultant, I started with the company 18 months ago as an HR coordinator,” Picard said. “Eight months later I became an HR advisor and took on new responsibilities, new projects and new things to do. Then I was promoted again and now I’m responsible for HR initiatives.”
Linda Coates, vice-president, human resources and corporate affairs at Tembec Inc., says her company is transforming itself into one with “a very sustainable future.”
“That appeals to people who want to make their marks,” Coates said. “We re-branded Tembec last year and our message is future-minded: Rooted in Tomorrow.”
Coates says Tembec has about 3,700 employees. “We expect between 30% and 40% of our workforce will retire in the next seven to 10 years,” she said. “That is well over 1,000 retirements.”
Coates says the forest industry is based on a renewable resource – the forest – which appeals to people who are concerned about the future.
“Tembec is a leader in sustainable forest practices, with a deep commitment to resource stewardship, and that resonates with people today,” she said. “We manufacture our products in parts of the country where other people go for vacations, so the lifestyle is very attractive to people who like the outdoors and living in smaller communities.” Tembec is also investing heavily in its specialty cellulose business, which serves a number of growth industries, and in green electricity.
“These are very steady businesses, which tend to offset the more cyclical sides of our business,” Coates said. “They also underline our long-term commitment to the business, which is important to people who want to build careers.”