Demand for skilled workers persists in forestry: EACOM seeking to fill 30-plus positions across operations.

Author:Kelly, Lindsay
Position:NEWS
 
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A job seeker looking for work in the forestry sector would have hit the jackpot after stopping by EACOM's recruitment website in April, where there were posted no fewer than 31 job openings across its various locations.

Production supervisor, millwright, industrial electrician, operation forester, planer supervisor, mobile equipment mechanic, human resources advisor: they're all on the list and all in demand at the forestry company.

"We're really having a hard time with skilled and unskilled labour, and this isn't just a problem of EACOM," said Christine Leduc, the company's director of public affairs.

"It's not even just a problem of the Ontario industry; it's a problem of the national industry."

And the shortage isn't limited to just the companies, Leduc added. Even contractors are having difficulty filling vacancies.

The problem is multi-faceted, Leduc said, and only grows larger as the aging Canadian workforce retires out of the industry without new generations to take their place.

Eighty per cent of Canadians live in cities, and prospective employees can be turned off by the more remote locations of the company's operations. Encouraging a young city-dweller to relocate to Ear Falls or Matagami can be a hard sell, Leduc concedes.

Others are scared off by the softwood lumber trade tariffs imposed by the U.S. in early 2018 the fifth such iteration--leery of joining an industry that is in perpetual turmoil.

Yet, current lumber prices are high, and EACOM in particular has enjoyed substantial growth in the last five years, investing millions into its operations, through expansion, acquisition and adding new equipment.

Last September, for example, EACOM installed a continuous dry kiln at its Timmins sawmill --the first of its kind in eastern Canada--which increased its production to 160 million board feet.

Those improvements have paid off.

Company production has increased from 518 million board feet in 2013 to 877 million board feet in 2017.

That increase has required hiring to match: in 2014, the company's workforce totalled at 820 employees. Today, that number sits at 1,161 people.

"We've experienced some tremendous growth, so I don't like to hear that the sector is a 'sunset sector,' because we feel like now is our time and we're becoming this great force in Ontario," Leduc said.

To help get the message across, EACOM has had to be creative in order to entice new workers and combat some of the negative perceptions the industry has had a...

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