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Overview

This page provides information and data on the Forestry sector, which is a component of the Forest and Wood Products industry.

The Forestry sector comprises two sub-sectors:

  • Forest Growing and Management
  • Harvesting and Haulage.

The Forest Growing and Management sub-sector consists of businesses engaged in the management of commercial plantation estates, native forests and farm forests that are primarily for the production of wood and wood fibre. This sector includes the establishment of estates, access roads and management of fire breaks. Commercial forestry estate management is undertaken on behalf of state and territory governments and private forest owners.

The Harvesting and Haulage sub-sector includes all enterprises that harvest forests for timber products and pulpwood, rough-hewn products (mine timbers, posts and railway sleepers) and firewood. Forest harvest enterprises are normally commissioned by forest management companies (public and private). This sub-sector also includes businesses that haul or transport logs and other forest products, produce woodchips in the field or gather forest biomass.

Vocational education and training (VET) is required in the Forestry sector in occupations such as:

  • Forestry and Logging Workers
  • Agricultural, Forestry and Horticultural Plant Operators
  • Agricultural and Forestry Scientists.

Nationally recognised training for the Forestry sector is delivered under the FWP – Forest and Wood Products Training Package.

For information on the Timber Processing and Products and Pulp and Paper Manufacturing sectors please visit the respective pages.

Information sourced from the Forest and Wood Products IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast and the Forest and Wood Products IRC’s 2020 Skills Forecast.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

IRC and Skills Forecasts

IRCs now submit comprehensive Skills Forecasts to the AISC every 3 years, with abridged annual updates submitted in the intervening 2 years.

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

Employment levels in Forestry and Logging and Forestry Support Services have fluctuated significantly over the years, however compared to 2000, employment levels in 2020 are down overall for Forestry and Logging, and up overall for Forestry Support Services. Employment levels between 2020 and 2024 are predicted to increase significantly for Forestry and Logging from around 3,400 to 5,300, while Forestry Support Services is predicted to decline further from around 4,900 to 4,500.

The three largest occupations as a proportion of the Forestry and Logging workforce are Agricultural, Forestry and Horticultural Plant Operators (15%), Forestry and Logging Workers (15%) and Agricultural and Forestry Scientists (9%). Employment in the Agricultural, Forestry and Horticultural Plant Operators and Agricultural and Forestry Scientists occupations are projected to increase over the next five years until 2024 (at a rate of 13% and 15% respectively). Truck drivers also make up over 8% of the sector workforce with employment levels in this occupation projected to increase by a further 7% over the next five years.

Farm, Forestry and Garden Workers (Other) make up over 25% of the Forestry Support Services workforce with the occupation of Environmental Scientists accounting for a further 12%. Although making up less than 6% of the Forestry Support Services workforce, Agricultural and Forestry Scientists are predicted to experience the biggest growth in employment between 2019 and 2024, at 15%.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments in Forestry-related qualifications have decreased overall from approximately 3,090 in 2015 to around 1,590 in 2019. Program completions have increased overall from approximately 250 in 2015 to around 580 in 2019. The majority of enrolments were at the certificate III or certificate II level in 2019. The Certificate II in Forest Growing and Management accounted for roughly 40% of the total enrolments, followed by the Certificate III in Harvesting and Haulage with 35%. The main intended occupation was Forestry Worker, followed by Logging Plant Operator.

The majority of training in Forestry-related qualifications in 2019 was delivered by private training providers (86%), with TAFE institutes accounting for a further 12%. More than half of all subjects were Commonwealth and state funded (55%) and 45% were funded by domestic fee for service. Most students were located in Victoria (26%), Tasmania (24%) and Queensland (21%).

Training was primarily delivered in Victoria (27%), Tasmania (23%) and Queensland (21%).

Commencements in apprenticeships and traineeships declined from around 290 in 2010 to roughly 40 in 2019. Commencements had been fairly stable between 2011 and 2017. In 2017 there were 70 commencements which rose sharply to almost 180 in 2018 before dropping to roughly 40 in 2019. There were approximately 70 completions in 2019 which is significantly down from the peak of 150 in 2012 but marginally up from 30 in 2018. The intended occupation for most apprentices and trainees was Logging Plant Operator. The majority of apprentices and trainees in training were reported by Tasmania (72%) and South Australia (15%).

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s VET students by industry. If you are prompted to log in, select cancel and you will continue to be directed to the program.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

The following generic skills were identified as top priority for the industry:

  • Technology
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) (Foundation skills)
  • Design mindset/Thinking critically/System thinking/Solving problems
  • Communication/Virtual collaboration/Social intelligence.

A range of top priority industry and occupation skills were identified, including:

  • Information and communication technology skills
  • Middle management skills
  • High level financial skills
  • Specialised skills.

The Forest and Wood Products IRC's 2020 Skills Forecast highlights a number of key issues affecting the Forestry sector:

  • Climate change is driving a push for planting more trees
  • Bushfires, and the increased risk of bushfires, are impacting the sector in both terms of the resources available to the sector and new training challenges posed
  • Ensuring workplaces are as safe as possible, particularly in remote areas
  • The ongoing challenge of accessing training in thin, regionally dispersed, markets
  • Employers throughout the country continue to be concerned about the need for career pathways into and within the sector.

The impact of the 2019–20 bushfire season on native and plantation timbers was far greater than anticipated and will have a significant impact on the sector now and into the future, particularly in New South Wales, Victoria and on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. Maximising salvage operations was a priority in the immediate aftermath of the fires. In the short term, demand for harvesting and haulage of plantation softwoods exceeded the capacity of the industry, and sawmills put on extra shifts to process salvaged wood. In the longer term, re-establishing plantations will be a major focus. The environmental constraints on re-establishing plantations require a different skill set than the work associated with establishing plantations in areas unaffected by fire.

Further, from a skills and workforce perspective, forest workers are increasingly being deployed during the bushfire season to perform roles that are distinct from their roles as forestry operations contractors and managers. Working in bushfire management, mitigation and firefighting has been described by the industry as being as much a core part of work as tree harvest operations or planting. Forest workers are involved in firefighting activities, including:

  • Defending resource and forestry assets
  • Salvage operations after the fire has passed
  • Fire suppression efforts in land use such as farms and national parks
  • Make-safe operations and road clearing
  • Re-establishing plantations.

Forestry operators need to be effectively trained and ready to respond and assist but it is unclear whether all current employees have the skills to perform all these roles. The Forest Management and Harvesting IRC has proposed a project for 2020–21 to examine the roles played by forestry operators responding to and assisting in bushfire situations and to update national qualifications and skills standards with the necessary skills to ensure that units of competency and qualifications reflect the need to undertake operations not only in harvesting operations, but also in firefighting and recovery assistance.

Additionally, there is an increased demand for mechanical thinning as a means of managing fuel load (an alternative to prescribed burning). It is likely that mechanical thinning will become an important role for workers in the sector in jurisdictions where it is adopted.

Technologies developed in other industries are being adapted for use by the Forestry sector. Drones have been trialled for use in aerial ignition to support safe and effective hazard reduction burning in New South Wales and for drone-assisted survival assessments in Western Australia. Other uses include:

  • Fauna survey visualisation and pre-harvesting animal welfare surveying
  • Tree count and height assessment in mid and long rotation
  • Damage assessments
  • Control burning monitoring.

The sector is primarily concerned with the data obtained from the use of the drones and tends to outsource the drone piloting. As in other industries, data collection and analysis is becoming increasingly important.

The Forestry sector remains focused on driving safety measures. There were 18 fatalities in the Australian Forestry and Logging sector between 2012 and 2016. Given the comparatively small size of the sector, this means that Forestry and Logging Workers are almost two and a half times more likely to have a fatal injury at work than road freight transport drivers and 17 times more likely than construction workers. Between 2012 and 2016 a fatality was sustained by 1 in every 2000 Forestry and Logging Workers; and a serious injury was sustained by 45 in every 2000 Forestry and Logging Workers (1 in every 44). Forestry operators work in small teams, sometimes only with two-way radio contact and on sites that are often difficult to access for emergency personnel. Working in remote areas requires a different set of safety skills than operating in a manufacturing site, on a construction site or in another location where medical assistance is only a phone call away. The critical need for all members of these small teams to be competent in mental health first aid has also been identified.

The Forest Management and Harvesting IRC has proposed a project for 2020–21 to develop a skill set and up to two new units of competency for operators, relating to shaping and sustaining safety culture and practices whilst working in remote high-risk operations. Workers need units of competency that include the following aspects:

  • Shaping and sustaining safety culture in remote high risk operations
  • Maintaining safe mindsets and practices in remote operations
  • Establishing and maintaining safety monitoring systems in remote operations
  • Adapting operations as a result of weather conditions
  • Being responsive to and aware of surrounds (fire, landslides, topography)
  • Working alone or in small teams
  • Noticing own and others well-being – mental health first aid
  • Managing fatigue in remote high risk operations
  • Adapting emergency procedures for remote high risk operations
  • Communication whilst working in remote high risk operations
  • Maintaining concentration over long periods of time in remote high risk operations.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Arboriculture Australia

Australian Forest Contractors Association (AFCA)

Australian Forest Growers (AFG)

Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA)

Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA)

Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (FIAT)

Forest Industries Federation (WA) Inc (FIFWA)

Forest Industry Council (Southern NSW) Inc (FIC)

Forest Research Mount Gambier (University of South Australia)

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Australia

ForestWorks

Institute of Foresters of Australia (IFA)

Responsible Wood (formerly known as Australian Forestry Standard Ltd)

Tasmanian Forest Contractors Association (TFCA)

Tasmanian Forests and Forest Products Network

Timber Communities Australia (TCA)

Timber Development Association of New South Wales (TDA)

Timber NSW Ltd

Timber Preservers Association of Australia (TPAA)

Timber Queensland Ltd

Victorian Association of Forest Industries Inc (VAFI)

 

Government bodies

National Timber Councils Association (NTCA)

Timber Towns Victoria

 

Employee associations

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)

Australian Workers’ Union (AWU)

Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU, though commonly still referred to as CFMEU)

 

Relevant research

Australia's Forests at a Glance 2019 – Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES)

Australian Forest and Wood Products Statistics – Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES)

Bushfire Recovery Harvesting Operations: Position Paper – Institute of Foresters of Australia and Australian Forest Growers (IFA/AFG)

Economic Potential for New Plantation Establishment in Australia – Linden Whittle, Peter Lock and Beau Hug for the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

Effects of Bushfires and COVID-19 on the Forestry and Wood Processing Sectors – Linden Whittle for Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES)

Growing a Better Australia: A Billion Trees for Jobs and Growth – Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

Industry Action Agenda 2019 – The Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub

Northern Forestry and Forest Products Industry Situational Analysis – Michael Stephens, Tim Woods, Clarissa Brandt, Mila Bristow and Mark Annandale for Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA)

The Djarlma Plan (WA Forestry Industry Development Plan) – Forest Products Commission Western Australia

The Value of Being 'Essential' – IndustryEdge

Upscaling the Australian Softwood Sawmill Industry: Feasibility and Implications for Future Plantation Investment – Linden Whittle and Rhys Downham for Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES)

Victorian Forestry Plan – Victorian Government

Wood Encouragement Policy for Western Australia – Forest Products Commission Western Australia

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2020, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, employment projections to May 2024
    • 030 Forestry and Logging
    • 051 Forestry Support Services
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2024
    • 7211 Agricultural, Forestry and Horticultural Plant Operators
    • 8413 Forestry and Logging Workers
    • 2341 Agricultural and Forestry Scientists
    • 7331 Truck Drivers
    • 7113 Paper and Wood Processing Machine Operators
    • 8419 Other Farm, Forestry and Garden Workers
    • 2343 Environmental Scientists
    • 3622 Gardeners.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2020, Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 - EQ06, viewed 1 August 2020 https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/6291.0.55.003May%202020?OpenDocument

Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, 2000 to 2020, May Quarter

  • 030 Forestry and Logging
  • 051 Forestry Support Services.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by 3 digit industry and 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant VET-related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce
    • 030 Forestry and Logging
    • 051 Forestry Support Services.

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider CollectionTotal VET Students and Courses from the following training package or qualifications:

  • FWP Forest and Wood Products Training Package
  • Certificate II in Forest Growing and Management
    • FPI20105 - Certificate II in Forest Growing and Management
    • FPI20111 - Certificate II in Forest Growing and Management
    • FPI20113 - Certificate II in Forest Growing and Management
    • FWP20116 - Certificate II in Forest Growing and Management
  • Certificate II in Harvesting and Haulage
    • FPI20211 - Certificate II in Harvesting and Haulage
    • FPI20213 - Certificate II in Harvesting and Haulage
    • FWP20216 - Certificate II in Harvesting and Haulage
  • Certificate III in Forest Growing and Management
    • FPI30111 - Certificate III in Forest Growing and Management
    • FPI30113 - Certificate III in Forest Growing and Management
    • FPI30199 - Certificate III in Forest & Forest Products (Forest Growing & Management)
    • FWP30116 - Certificate III in Forest Growing and Management
  • Certificate III in Harvesting and Haulage
    • FPI30205 - Certificate III in Harvesting and Haulage
    • FPI30211 - Certificate III in Harvesting and Haulage
    • FPI30213 - Certificate III in Harvesting and Haulage
    • FWP30216 - Certificate III in Harvesting and Haulage
  • Certificate IV in Forest Operations
    • FPI40105 - Certificate IV in Forest Operations
    • FPI40111 - Certificate IV in Forest Operations
    • FWP40116 - Certificate IV in Forest Operations
  • Advanced Diploma of Forest Industry Sustainability
    • FWP60116 - Advanced Diploma of Forest Industry Sustainability.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2015 to 2019 program enrolments
  • 2015 to 2019 subject enrolments
  • 2015 to 2019 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

FWP Forest and Wood Products Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2010 to 2019 commencements
  • 2010 to 2019 completions
  • 2019 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2019 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.

Priority skills data have been extracted from the Forest and Wood Products IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast.

Updated: 24 Sep 2020
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