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Home » Graduate Careers » How to grow your career in the expanding Irish forestry sector

Ruth D’Alton

Group HR Director, Coillte

The Irish forestry sector offers fantastic opportunities and a diverse range of career options that can make a real difference to our world.

Identifying a career path is one of the most difficult decisions facing school leavers. Fortunately, there are many options available when choosing a career that can ultimately contribute to helping the planet. Forestry is one of them.

Positive impact of sustainable forestry

Forestry involves planting, growing, protecting, managing, sustainably harvesting and replanting trees, leaving an enriched resource for the next generation. Forests help tackle climate change through, sinking and storing carbon; supplying sustainable wood products to help build homes; and enhancing biodiversity. Forests also provide recreational facilities, such as walking and mountain bike trails benefiting local communities and people’s wellbeing. If you are passionate about the natural environment and promoting sustainability, then forestry could be an ideal career.

Growing forestry sector in Ireland 

The forest sector is forecast to significantly increase over the next decade. This will likely result in the creation of new jobs; the majority of which will be sustainable green jobs in rural communities.

The Government has identified the sector as key to delivering Ireland’s climate action goals and has backed this with Ireland’s Forest Strategy 2030 and the allocation of a new €1.3 billion Forestry Programme. The Programme aims to increase forest cover in Ireland from 11.6% to 18% and create 450,000 hectares of new forests.

Career opportunities in forestry 

Forestry is a sustainable and rewarding career; one that provides a great balance between the outdoors and an office environment.

Coillte, Ireland’s semi-state forestry company, is responsible for managing 440,000 hectares of primarily forested lands. It’s forestry strategic vision aims to bring more focus to climate action and sets ambitious new targets on biodiversity and recreation while continuing to deliver for the forest and wood products industry. It is Ireland’s largest forester and producer of certified wood and Ireland’s largest provider of outdoor recreation.

Coillte also develops green energy projects, produces panel boards and undertakes nature rehabilitation projects of scale. It is focused on balancing and delivering the multiple benefits from its forests and land for climate, nature, wood and people.

As the forestry sector looks to expand, there are more career and learning options to consider.

While the forestry sector currently employs over 9,000 people, Coillte itself employs over 800 people directly and 1,200 contractors in locations across Ireland. Roles include professional foresters, ecologists, engineers and technology and environmental specialists, as well as finance, HR and communications. For people with an entrepreneurial interest, the industry is also seeing more forestry contracting business startups and a growing need for forest machine operators and timber hauliers.  

Forestry also offers a great work-life balance and supportive environment that is conducive to career growth and gender diversity. In more recent times, the semi-state forestry company has increasingly focused on growing the proportion of women joining its organisation. Today, its female representation is at 28% and, notably, at 44% on its board. However, there continues to be a general under-representation of women studying forestry and joining the sector.

Coillte is committed to ensuring there is an increased understanding of the importance of forestry and by doing so attract the next generation of talent to the sector.

Develop a career in forestry

As the forestry sector looks to expand, there are more career and learning options to consider. University College Dublin and South East Technological University offer undergraduate forestry degree programmes up to QQI Level 8. For wood science, timber skills and production management, Technological University Dublin offers a QQI Level 8 Sustainable Timber Technology Course.  

To earn and learn, Atlantic Technological University Sligo has introduced a haulage apprenticeship, and Teagasc Ballyhaise has launched a QQI Level 5 Forwarder Operator programme.

Coillte offers a graduate programme that allows forestry, ecology, and engineering graduates and helps them transition from college into work.

Click here for more information on forestry as a career.

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