A recently formed initiative aimed at encouraging local people into local rural jobs is to run a dedicated forestry careers day for school leavers and young adults.
In north Northumberland, 50% of employment is currently in land-based industries, with forestry and associated businesses making up a significant proportion of that figure.
With new job opportunities that are likely to arise in the sector, the Growing Rural Careers (GRC) initiative is to host the first rural careers day of its kind in the county.
Aimed at young people over the age of 15, the event on February 20 is designed to highlight what the organisation regards as a vital, but often unnoticed, part of the region’s economy.
In the North East alone, more than 1,500 people are employed in forestry.
The sector, worth around £40m to the area, is also set to grow in line with the Government’s commitment to the Renewable Heat Incentive and the increasing numbers of people turning to biomass as a green, sustainable and more efficient heating source.
The careers day - designed to showcase virtually every stage of production, while prompting discussion about the industry and long-term career prospects - will begin with a visit to Ford and Etal Estates.
The estates manageme their own woodlands and use the harvested timber in a variety of products at their commercial sawmill at Leetham Hill. They also manage key local tourist attractions and encourage local businesses to work in the rural economy.
Young people will given the chance to see a working forest harvest site in action, as well as the skills and roles involved at the estates’ woodyard site.
From there, they will visit Bedmax, near Belford, which manufactures shavings for equine bedding.
The group will tour the plant to gain an insight into its process while talking to those involved about their roles.
Bedmax supports 16 full-time equivalent jobs across its head office and production unit in Detchant, with a further 48 jobs provided in Northumberland and the surrounding area through its supply chain.
Philippa Secombe, GRC project manager and organiser of the event, said: “This really is a unique opportunity for young people to meet three large local employers, and see what they do and what the forestry industry has to offer.
“They are established companies, who provide long-term sustainable careers.”
Tim Smalley, managing director of Bedmax, said: “We are delighted to be involved in this careers day. As a company we aim to offer long-term sustainable employment.
“Our workforce is younger than average for land-based industries and we currently have an engineering apprentice from the area, on a three-year programme.”
The forestry careers day is free of charge and, thanks to support from the Glendale Gateway Trust and Northwoods, a minibus will transport the group between the various sites on the day.
Anyone wishing to take part should contact Ms Secombe on 07747 345381 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, a contact form is available at www.training-northumberland.co.uk .