Teaching about trees
Bringing students to the forest: careers in the making
A group of (l’École secondaire) Grande-Rivière high school students discovered the region’s great forests during a cross-country skiing school trip this winter in the Gatineau Park, part of a larger program to promote forestry.
Grande-Rivière offers an optional outdoors course in which students participate in a handful of activities. “Students have the choice between 16 activities and they must complete four,” explained Marc Boucher, Grande-Rivière school teacher. The cross-country skiing was one the 16 activities.
School budgets are limited, so the Regional Committees on Natural Resources (CRRNTO, a branch of the CREO) have stepped in to help fund the forestry program, to promote the forest industry; the region’s CRÉO (Conférence régionale des élus de l’Outaouais) donated $2,000 from its Forest Resources Development Program which allowed the Aylmer students to be introduced to different environments within Outaouais’ forests. “The grant, among other things, allowed us to have a biologist accompany us during the trip. The biologist talked about Gatineau Park’s fauna and flora and occupations related to the forest industry,” explained Boucher. “The idea is to convey information to students about the forest industry and help support Québec’s forest industry,” said Pierre Labrecque, director of CRRNTO. “The goal is to raise awareness about the local forest industry which remains largely unrecognized.”
Roughly 80% of Outaouais is covered by forests, of which 80% are public and 20% private. Paper manufacturing has lost momentum, depreciating 14.4% from 2005 to 2009. During that period, many mills and pulp and paper plants have closed after decades of operation. Today, about 2,400 are locally employed directly or indirectly in forestry.
This program is part of a summer forestry research camp with local teachers. Although brief, this program teaches the teachers about the forest industry’s importance in West Québec. “Even in the Outaouais, the industry’s contribution is not well known. There are many misconceptions, and teachers are generally not well equipped to talk about the industry,” added Labrecque.
In previous years the CRRNTO organized a four-day summer camp for teachers including visits to plants and meetings with experts. Although focused on teachers, the program also aims to spark an interest among youth for careers in this field.
According to Labrecque, today’s forestry industry has many positions to fill and is in need of expertise. He said that in many cases, forestry companies are forced to recruit workers from outside the region.
With CRÉO’s dismantling, also as part of the government’s austerity measures, it’s unclear if this program promoting the forest industry will be continued.