Forest products industry gets out of the woods

Online contest to find summer interns uses social tools to share employer brand
By Monica Bailey
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 07/14/2014

While the forest products industry in Canada is rooted in traditional pulp, paper and lumber, it’s now about much more than the printed product — everything from cosmetics to clothing to car parts can be made from renewable wood fibre.

The industry is also future-oriented in another way: It’s using social media in an intriguing manner to entice young people to consider a career in the newly transformed forest sector.

Vision2020 is an ambitious plan to propel the industry forward by improving its environmental performance by 35 per cent, generating an additional $20 billion in economic activity from new innovations and growing markets, and hiring 60,000 workers, with a focus on women, Aboriginal Peoples and new Canadians.

Particular areas of focus include skilled trades, sciences, corporate positions and woodland operations.

To attract those new workers, the industry realized it had to revitalize its brand as a modern, green industry based on a renewable resource and one that needs brains as well as brawn.

The result was thegreenestworkforce.ca. This website showcases the direction of the sector as a high-tech, innovative, environmentally progressive industry listing career opportunities right across the country — from skilled trades, sciences, corporate positions, woodland operations and more.

The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) also decided to take the recruiting campaign digital and launched an unusual social media contest, called The Green Dream Contest, to grab the attention of young people and create a buzz about the forest sector.

“We know that we have to compete with other sectors for skilled workers and we see this online social media contest as a fun way to attract a next-generation workforce,” says David Lindsay, president and CEO of FPAC.

“Our goal is to encourage college and university students seeking interesting work experience to look to the forest products industry, a sector they may never have considered as a potential employer.”

Contest leverages social platforms

The first contest in 2013 ran on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter and was aimed at university and college students across the country. Interested candidates were required to get creative — they had to apply via Facebook and submit a two-minute YouTube video to describe what would make them an ideal Green Dream intern.

Then the candidates had to take to social media to have their friends, families and others to vote for their application. The videos with the most votes were granted an interview for one of the seven open positions.

It was a huge success — the contest went viral with about 16,500 cast votes, close to 180,000 page views at thegreenestworkforce.ca and 170,299 YouTube views of The GreenestWorkforce videos.

The winning candidates not only received a four-month paid summer internship, but also received an iPad mini to blog about their work experience in the forest industry.

They wrote about what it is like working in a forest community, what type of skills are required to perform the tasks assigned to them, what sort of education and skills the industry is looking for and what makes the sector a place to consider a career.

With the success of the first contest, running a second contest seemed the obvious choice.

Another social media contest ran this year, with 14 internships on offer. The internship positions included human resources, chemical, mechanical or electrical engineering, forest management specialists, and communications personnel.

In total, more than one million Canadians participated in the contest in some form— voting, sharing or applying — and helped spread the message that the Canadian forest products industry is hiring again.

Career possibilities

Many of the students who applied did not even realize their chosen field of study was relevant within the sector. Students in chemical engineering, industrial engineering, communications and business development hadn’t recognized that their education, expertise and skills were even remotely tied to the opportunities available in the forest products industry.

“These student positions give us the opportunity to experience an industry setting before we graduate from our respective universities. If it wasn’t for these opportunities, many of us would graduate with our degrees without any idea of what our career would actually entail,” says Robert Silliker, summer 2014 Green Dream intern chemical engineer at AV Nackawic.

Monica Bailey is director of communications at the Forest Products Association of Canada in Ottawa. The blogs written by the Green Dream interns can be found at www.thegreenestworkforce.ca/index.php/blog.

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