Malaspina University-College forestry graduates have no trouble finding jobs

April 23, 1997 - 5:00pm

Educating people who are employable.

That's the number one goal of Barry Ostrand and his team of instructors in the Forestry Department at Malaspina University-College, in Nanaimo.

Meeting that goal has not been a problem. In the last three years, Ostrand said "there've been more jobs in forestry than there are graduates."

This spring, 27 students will graduate from the two-year Forest Resources Technology diploma program and already half have found jobs. The reason for the high success rate?

"There've been many new initiatives in forestry over the past few years, and the Ministry of Forests was in a hiring mode," said Ostrand.

Although the Ministry's hiring trend appears to be over and job prospects are slowing down due to a general downturn in the industry, Ostrand is optimistic the bulk of this year's crop of forestry graduates will find employment.

By January of each year "job recruiters" from large and small forest companies start knocking on Malaspina's forestry department's door. "The job recruiters come directly to us," he said. "That's what we are--job brokers for our students."

The two-year Forest Resources Technology program provides technical training for students starting a career in most fields of forestry. Graduates usually find employment with the Ministry, forestry consultants or large forest companies. A great deal of the work is performed outdoors and can be physically demanding. Starting salaries generally range between $2,500 and $4,000 per month.

Excellent job prospects after graduation are the reason why the program is so popular. Last year alone, there were 256 applications for 28 training spaces. "We narrowed it down to 120 fully qualified applicants," Ostrand said.

"Sometimes it's a tough decision."

Applicants stand a better chance of getting accepted into the program if they've worked in the industry for a year or two. While much of the course material covers the technical aspects of forestry, Ostrand said instructors in the department have a responsibility to teach students environmental and social awareness.

"We're not just producing timber beasts," he said. "We're educating people who are employable and who have an environmental and social conscience. Their decisions in forestry can have huge impacts on the environment."

Curriculum advice comes from a special Advisory Committee which includes representation from the Ministry of Forests, forestry consultants, large companies and the Ministry of Environment. The Committee periodically reviews the program "and updates us on what we should be teaching," said Ostrand.

"They tell us what the real world needs in terms of graduates. That's one of reasons we're so successful in educating people who get jobs."

Another reason is surely the practical hands-on experience students gain during their two years in the program. Students work in Malaspina University-College's "mini-tree farm licence", a 1300-hectare licenced woodlot which stretches across the west face of Mount Benson.

The woodlot, which meets Forest Practices Code standards, provides an annual allowable cut of 4500 cubic metres. "There are fir, cedar, hemlock, alder, balsam and other trees on site," explained Ostrand. "We log and sell the raw logs wherever we can get the best price. Our students get involved with real forestry planning and operations, for example timber cruising, forest engineering and helping to prepare silviculture prescriptions. Some students have found summer employment on the woodlot doing spacing and pruning. It's excellent hands-on training for our students."

For further information on Malaspina's forestry progam, please call Ostrand at 753-3245, local 2260.

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