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Trees and timber

The trees and timber industry includes the care and management of trees, woodlands and forests, and the production of wood and timber products. It comprises businesses involved in arboriculture, forestry establishment, forestry harvesting and timber processing. Recently, there have been national, European and international policy developments, focusing on sustainable management and climate change.

Key statistics:

  • There are approximately 14,700 people working in the industry, in an estimated 5,600 businesses.
  • 87.5% of businesses employ between 0-9 staff, 8.3% employ between 10-49 staff and only 3 businesses more than 48 staff.
  • 64% of businesses employ casual staff and 7.3% employ family members.
  • 89% of the workforce is male.
  • 85% of proprietors are male and 89% of staff are male.
  • 36% of the workforce is under the age of 35 and 64% is over 35 years.
  • No workers are over 65 years.
  • 73.5% of proprietors are over 35 years.
  • Trees and timber industry employees are aged 45-54 years.
  • 88% of the workforce is full-time.
  • 46% of the workforce is self-employed.

Jobs in the industry include: forestry consultant, forest manager, forester, forest machine operator, community ranger, woodman, harvesting contractor, chainsaw operator

Entry requirements for this industry vary depending on the job role. Some jobs require no formal qualifications. However, relevant qualifications and experience can be an advantage, especially for higher paid job roles. Technical/specialist roles may require specific qualifications and/or experience, but some employers may invest in training a suitable individual. Volunteering or taking seasonal/temporary work can improve employment opportunities. There are opportunities for those wishing to change career, particularly those from the leisure sector and construction.

Drivers of change in employment are:

  • Ensuring compliance with health and safety regulations provides an opportunity to increase the professionalism of the industry and reduce the number of non-compliant businesses.
  • The Working Time Directive is likely to have a huge impact on the industry and will result, for example, in a shortage of HGV drivers. Alternative methods of timber haulage, e.g. shipping or rail freight, will need continued investigation.
  • Reform to the Common Agricultural Policy, increasing land integration and the delivery of environmental targets will require businesses to diversify and undergo an evolution in existing skills from traditional to environmental, conservation, tourism and other public benefit skills. This could increase numbers employed and by developing transferable skills, the existing workforce will become more adaptable.
  • Legislation combined with government promotion of healthy living, will continue to generate opportunities in leisure and tourism activities.
  • Emerging renewable energy strategies will provide new opportunities for employment in the supply of wood fuel for heat and power generation.
  • Technological advances will lead to a decrease in lower paid jobs, but create the need for higher skilled staff and operators.
  • Globalisation will increasingly require businesses to become more competitive, develop value added products and improve their marketing and customer care skills.
  • Demographic changes, an ageing workforce and a lack of new recruits will require better promotion of the industry and a continued increase in the employment of migrant workers.

The current and future skills that will become increasingly important at high and intermediate level are:

  • Communication
  • Literacy
  • Planning and organisation
  • Computing and IT
  • Customer relations
  • Numeracy
  • Environmental management
  • Technical and practical
  • Wildlife management

An increase in logistics and planning staff will be required with a higher level of ICT and planning skills. Critical shortage exists in: young recruits to all occupations; managers with practical/technical experience; and craft workers including tree climbers, planting teams, chainsaw and machine operators.

National and regional data:

  • East Midlands – There are an estimated 900 employees in the regional workforce, in around 700 businesses. Within the East Midlands forestry industry, the drive to develop economically viable and well managed woodlands is leading to the development of alternative uses of forestry products, e.g. renewable energy sources and the use of woodlands for other activities such as education, health and leisure. This requires additional skills for both woodland owners and those managing woodlands.
  • London – There are an estimated 300 trees and timber businesses in the region.
  • North East – There are an estimated 2,100 employees in the regional workforce, in around 600 businesses. The industry is a significant employer in the region.
  • South West – There are an estimated 2,700 employees in the regional workforce, in around 1,000 businesses. The region has one fifth of England’s woodland. Within the South West forestry industry, the drive to develop economically viable and well managed woodlands is leading to the development of alternative uses of forestry products, e.g. renewable energy sources and the use of woodlands for other activities such as education, health and leisure. This requires additional skills for both woodland owners and those managing woodlands.
  • Yorkshire and the Humber – There are an estimated 1,800 employees in the regional workforce.

[N.B. The following employment and business estimates exclude the arboriculture activities of the industry.]

  • East of England – There are an estimated 2,223 employees in the regional workforce, in around 433 businesses.
  • North West – There are an estimated 1,583 employees in the regional workforce, in around 400 businesses.
  • South East – There are an estimated 3,721 employees in the regional workforce, in around 705 businesses.
  • West Midlands – There are an estimated 1,254 employees in the regional workforce, in around 355 businesses.
  • Northern Ireland – There are an estimated 220 employees in the regional workforce, in around 32 businesses.
  • Wales – There are an estimated 2,147 employees in the regional workforce, in around 100 businesses.
  • Scotland – There are an estimated 4,081 employees in the regional workforce, in around 208 businesses.

Pay scales in this industry are variable, so the following only provides an indication of the average annual salary paid to some full-time positions: forestry managers £29,861; and forestry workers £19,535. Further information on salaries can be found on the Defra website.

Source: Lantra AACS LMI report 2010