The forestry industry faces a shortage of skilled workers, a challenge requiring a new approach to forest-based tertiary education.
In response, the Committee for the Future of Forestry Education (COFFE) has proposed the development of a Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma in Forestry programs.
These programs address the decreasing opportunities to study forestry at the undergraduate level in Australian universities. As a result, forest growers have been turning to environmental science and agriculture graduates who may lack specialist forestry knowledge and skills development.
To coordinate this initiative, the University of Tasmania will lead the program, with institutions including Southern Cross University, Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, the University of South Australia, and the University of the Sunshine Coast also delivering units.
This collaborative model was developed after a meeting held at the 2022 Forestry Australia Symposium in Albury, where university representatives discussed the issue of education and skills shortages in the sector.
According to Forestry Australia’s CEO Jacquie Martin, the lack of study opportunities in university has led to a skill shortage, impacting the forestry profession, the forestry sector, and the future of forest management in Australia.
“Forest growers are recruiting graduates with environmental science or agriculture qualifications, as they are well-qualified in their field, but they lack some specialist forestry knowledge and skills,” Ms. Martin said.
“It is hoped this innovative and collaborative program will address these challenges by allowing those with environmental science or agriculture qualifications to ‘top up’ or extend their skills into the area of forestry and provide a pathway for people seeking a career in forestry.”
The Graduate Certificate will include an Introduction to Forestry and the Forest Sector; Forest Planning and Operations; Carbon Forestry; and Plantation Silviculture.
The first unit is expected to open for enrolment in 2024, with more units building toward a Graduate Diploma to be added in 2025.
To maintain program viability, forest growers have committed to a minimum enrolment guarantee for the first five years, with additional funding support to be sought from Commonwealth initiatives.