Shortage of UK foresters prompts government to offer free courses

A shortage of foresters has prompted the government to launch free courses as it rushes to meet targets for tree planting.

There will be training in chainsaw maintenance, coppicing, woodland management, hedge laying and the sale and marketing of timber.

The Institute of Chartered Foresters said in November 2021 that the industry faced a shortfall of 10,000 trained workers. Without those positions being filled, the government will not be able to meet its climate goals of increasing woodland cover.

The government has promised to increase England’s woodland cover from 14.5% to 16.5% by 2050, and tree-planting across the UK to 30,000 hectares a year by the end of parliament.

The courses will cost £700,000, allocated from the £750m Nature for Climate Fund.

The government hopes the courses will prompt people to consider a career in forestry, so the sector can grow and woodland goals can be met. Ministers said it could also create new green jobs and boost the economy.

The forestry minister, Trudy Harrison, said: “We need to continue the legacy of our skilled forestry workforce to increase tree-planting across the country. More woodland is vital for nature’s recovery and also essential to increase our security of UK grown timber, and deliver on our net-zero commitments.

“We have many fantastic foresters already, but there aren’t enough to grow and manage our woodlands at the planned scale over the coming decades.

“Our free practical forestry training courses will create green jobs, bring more people into the forestry sector and help existing workers build on and diversify existing forestry skills to meet this demand.”

The government is offering 100% funding for eligible courses and expects grants to range between £150 and £3,000.

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The Forestry Commission chief executive, Richard Stanford, said: “The forestry training fund is a really valuable resource, accessible to anyone moving into the forestry sector.

“The fund will help people build and diversify their skills in forestry by offering training in essential skills from woodland management to planning and planting, which are important to creating resilient forests and woodlands.

“I encourage people from all backgrounds and abilities interested to apply, whether that’s a farmer looking to upskill or an individual looking for a rewarding career in forestry.”

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