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Logging and Sawmilling Journal November 2014

August/September 2015

On the Cover:
Tolko’s Lavington, B.C. sawmill has recently seen a major upgrade that positions the operation well as lumber markets move in a healthy direction, with increased lumber demand, both in North America, and overseas. Read about the major improvements at the Lavington mill beginning on page 14 (Photo of Tolko mill by Paul MacDonald).

Learning from others
Canada’s forest industry will have to implement various approaches to attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining a skilled workforce—and it can learn from other industries and companies, from Apple to Telus, on how to do this.

Re-start for Resolute sawmill
Resolute Forest Products recently re-started its Ignace, Ontario sawmill, having invested $10 million on improvements, with a strong focus on the infeed area so that the mill can now receive cut-to-length logs exclusively.

New headrig and optimization improvements for Tolko Lavington
Tolko Industries’ Lavington, B.C. sawmill has undergone a significant upgrade—involving installing a new headrig from Salem Equipment and associated controls from USNR—that has delivered a solid improvement in recovery.

Rain Forest Sawmill … in the rainforest
Dale Crumback has recently moved from sawyer to company owner at B.C.’s Rain Forest Sawmill, and things are hopping these days with a wide range of customers looking for a variety of wood produced from their biodiesel-powered Wood-Mizer LT 70 sawmill.

Logging ‘n lobsters
New Brunswick logging contractor Drew Conley juggles running a logging operation—with most of the wood going across the line, to Maine—with helping out in the family fishing outfit, catching lobster.

Resolute’s wood pellets now generating power for Ontario
Resolute Forest Products recently completed construction of a $9 million wood pellet plant in Thunder Bay to supply Ontario Power Generation’s power plant in Atikokan with wood pellets as a fuel substitute.

Busy woodlot a welcome sign
One of the primary motivations in establishing the CVWPA woodyard was to diversify wood product production and, in turn, supply diversified markets.

Fearless Contracting: not afraid of diversifying
Vancouver Island’s Fearless Contracting is finding the best business approach is diversification, and as part of that, it is increasingly doing logging work on B.C. Timber Sales, for other larger logging contractors, and for log brokers on the Island.

The Edge
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre and Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions.

The Last Word
With the federal election coming up, Jim Stirling says there may be a mood shift underway with voters, which could yield some surprising results.

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Learning from others on how to recruit—and hang on to—employees for the forest industry

Canada’s forest industry will have to implement various approaches to attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining a skilled workforce—and it can learn from other industries and companies, from Apple to Telus, on how to do this.

By Kit Tam

Since the ‘War for Talent’ became a business catch-phrase in the 1990s, and through subsequent ups and downs in market cycles, the competition for talent has continued unabated.

So how is Canada’s forest industry performing on its various approaches to attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining a skilled workforce?

One area where it has excelled is in adopting best practices in people management from within the sector.

A Tradition of Leadership

Looking at, and learning from, best practices locally and in other geographic regions within the forest industry is nothing new. It has been practiced for years.

For larger scale multi-national firms, this often was a case of mills learning the best or most promising human resources practices from each other. Smaller firms quickly caught on. Importantly, many smaller and mid-sized firms became innovative leaders in productivity improvement and retention. Immigrant entrepreneurs from Europe, for example, introduced ‘Old World’ craftsmanship and HR development values—epitomized by well managed family firms and loyal employees—into Canadian operations.

Apart from these ‘imported’ HR best practices, historically some of the most innovative workforce development initiatives for the forest products industry originated through industry, education and government leadership in B.C.

In the mid-1990s, Forest Renewal BC funded start-up of an industry-education partnership called WoodLINKS that developed a certification-based curriculum, delivered through high school shop programs. Its purpose was to attract students into the industry and prepare them with the skills needed for entry level positions in wood products manufacturing operations. Certification could also be eligible for academic credits at the post-secondary level. The program was recognized internationally, and is now under the auspices of the Wood Manufacturing Council.

In 2007, BCIT introduced its online diploma program (‘Industrial Wood Processing and Management’), which greatly improved manufacturers’ access to post-secondary education and training, but fell victim to budget cutbacks and insufficient enrolment as the impacts of the global economic recession hit home. These are just a few examples of B.C.’s leadership in this area.

More recently, industry associations such as the Council of Forest Industries of B.C. continue to promote forest sector careers through their respective education programs. Other groups such as the B.C. Coastal Forest Industry Workforce are implementing a human resource strategy to address critical skills shortages and meet the industry’s long term HR requirements.

Canada’s forest products sector can, again, be a global leader on workforce development, where others look to us for best practice examples. Our failure to attract sufficient numbers of new recruits to the industry is rooted in a well known image problem.

On this, we can learn from other industries and business sectors that treat recruitment like a marketing function and nurture strategic relationships before they need them.

Lessons from Other Business Sectors

Increasingly, Canadian forest products manufacturers are looking at, and adopting, HR best practices from other industries.

Technology companies are amongst the best at marketing—whether it’s a company or its products and services. Look at Telus, for example. Their front line staff is well trained and empowered to deliver a flexible and positive customer-focused experience, supported by a highly competitive pricing strategy and creative marketing team.

Who can deny the fun factor depicted by the Telus critters in the company’s ads—reinforcing its ‘Future Friendly’ branding and made more powerful by inviting consumers to engage in the creative process?

We may not remember the details of the sales pitch (and these are constantly evolving anyway), but the fun factor goes a long way to helping consumers remember the company’s name when choosing a TV, phone or Internet package— or a future employer.

How many consumers can name a forest products manufacturer—even when pulp, paper and wood products are a part of their everyday lives?

Globally, Apple is the epitome of creative and marketing brilliance. Consumers want to buy their products. Competitors copy them. Developers want to work for them. Few brands embody ‘fun and cool’ better—not to mention creative passion and excellence. These are clues to Apple’s commercial success and ability to attract talent.

Educators are Vitally Important Front-Line Influencers

Apple also understands the importance of investing in strategic relationships for the long term—and providing value to educators has been vital to their success. Early investment in generations of students using discounted Mac Classics and Apple II’s in school libraries and computer labs have nurtured generations of passionate consumers of iPhones, iMacs, iPads and other ‘i’ products.

Apple just recently committed another $100 million in the form of iPads, MacBooks and other products for low income schools in the U.S.—along with technical expertise to support their use. A fascinating case study, they have succeeded in nurturing long term relationships in the education system when business giants in other sectors are often viewed with suspicion.

Google was a quick learner of this strategy. Their Connected Classrooms initiative collaborates with educators to provide experiential learning for K-12 students— virtually bringing the world and global experts into the classroom. Their MBA Product Management Summit is a two-day workshop designed to give students a taste of what product management is like at Google. Their Teacher Academy is a two-day professional development experience designed to help teachers realize the potential of Google technologies as teaching tools. A recent count revealed thirty-six creative education initiatives offered by Google—all delivering value to educators and their students.

Boeing is a more traditional ‘corporate’ business. But they, too, have a long history of nurturing strategic relationships in the education system. In 2013, Boeing invested $176.3 million in community initiatives—more than half of which was directed to education programs around the world. The programs are designed to develop a globally competitive workforce and strong communities through experiential learning, mentoring and partnerships that inspire students and help prepare them for successful careers in the 21st century workforce. They also are aligned with Boeing’s business interests.

The relationships outlined above are not traditional ‘fee for service’ models. Nor are they philanthropic examples of corporate social responsibility—not really! What they point to is a clear vision of long term business goals and the role of the education system, from kindergarten to post-graduate studies, as front line connectors to future consumers and the future workforce.

Thinking Outside the Box on First Nations Relationships

Private timberlands aside, there are only two owners of fibre in Canada—the Crown and First Nations. The latter’s influence will only increase, reinforced by positive role models and recent Supreme Court decisions.

First Nations employment in Canada’s forest industry traditionally has been limited to forest and woodland operations. But, looking ahead to the future forest economy, companies are increasingly recruiting and integrating Aboriginal and First Nations talent into manufacturing operations, marketing and sales and other non-traditional roles.

On First Nations employment, conventional preconceptions box in the ability of manufacturers and HR professionals to be creative in finding solutions.

As Chief George Miller, Chair of the Kaska-Dena Council, says on creating sustainable jobs for First Nations peoples: “We have to stop thinking about what we can’t do, and start thinking about what we can do—then act on it.”

Data Mining to Guide Talent Strategies

Knowledge is power. And data mining can help to identify where company recruitment targets live, work, shop and play. What motivates them? How to get on their radar—so we have a chance of ‘capturing their hearts and minds’?

Using the full array of Internet technologies, social media and more traditional methods of primary and secondary research, such as demographic mapping, companies can identify and assess which networks present the best probable return on investment on their HR recruitment dollars.

Data mining can be a powerful tool to guide talent strategies, gauge performance and develop opportunities to attract, recruit, nurture and retain both the ‘best and brightest’ and other talent needed for a well rounded workforce.

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Kit Tam is a senior associate at Woodbridge Associates Inc., with focus on research, strategy and planning. This is the second in a two-part series she has written for Logging and Sawmilling Journal. The first part ran in the December/January 2015 issue of LSJ. She can be contacted at kt@woodbridgeassociates.com