The province's investment in a human resource strategy for B.C.'s silviculture industry is evidence that more trees will be replanted over the next five years, said Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Minister Pat Bell.
The B.C. Liberal government will invest $550,000 over three years to enable the industry to attract and retain workers. Bell made the announcement during at the Western Silviculture Contractors' Association conference in Kamloops Thursday.
"One of the biggest challenges for the silviculture industry is recruiting and retaining quality employees," Bell told reporters. "There's no question the industry will ramp up and we need quality individuals."
Industry veterans say young workers are being lured by jobs in Alberta's oil and gas industry. In addition fewer young people are attracted to the industry, with its seasonal work, unique culture and fitness requirements.
The funding will be used to better determine the workforce and find ways to keep workers and provide them skills to succeed.
"Finding employees will be the industry's "single-biggest challenge," Bell said.
One of the main reasons for the need for workers is an increase in the number of trees being replanted. About 230 million seedlings are expected to be planted this year following several years of decline. That number is expected to ramp up to 250 million in coming years.
Bell blamed the decline in tree planting — at the same time as pine beetle devastated Central and Southern Interior forests — on low harvest levels over the last several years.
But the lumber industry is returning to profits, based primarily on demand from China.
"We're expecting to see a continuing ramp-up in trees planted," Bell said.
The former forests minister predicts a "strong cycle."
"We could easily be at a quarter billion trees or better."