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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 sub-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.

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

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

Employment levels in Forestry and Logging and Forestry Support Services have fluctuated significantly over the years, however compared to 2001, employment levels in 2021 are down overall for Forestry and Logging, and up overall for Forestry Support Services. Employment levels between 2021 and 2025 are projected to decrease significantly for Forestry and Logging from 6,300 to 3,500, while Forestry Support Services are projected to increase from 5,100 to 5,900.

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 to 2025 (at a rate of 3% and 1% respectively). Truck drivers make up 8% of the sector workforce with employment for this occupation projected to increase by 14% over the next five years.

Other Farm, Forestry and Garden Workers make up around 25% of the Forestry Support Services workforce with Environmental Scientists accounting for a further 12%. Gardeners have the largest employment projection increase of the occupations in this sector with 4% to 2025.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments in Forestry-related qualifications have decreased overall from approximately 2,800 in 2016 to around 1,340 in 2020. Program completions have increased overall from approximately 210 in 2016 to around 360 in 2020. The majority of enrolments were at the certificate II or certificate III level in 2020. The Certificate II in Forest Growing and Management accounted for 37% of the total enrolments, followed by the Certificate III in Harvesting and Haulage with 30%. The main intended occupation was Forestry Worker, followed by Logging Plant Operator.

In 2020, the majority of training in Forestry-related qualifications was delivered by private training providers (87%), with TAFE institutes accounting for a further 12%. More than half of all subjects were Commonwealth and state funded (52%) and 48% were funded by domestic fee for service. Most students were located in Queensland (29%), Tasmania (20%) and Victoria (17%).

Training was primarily delivered in Queensland (30%), Tasmania (20%) and Victoria (16%).

Commencements in apprenticeships and traineeships declined from around 110 in 2011 to approximately 50 in 2020. 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 around 40 in 2019. There were roughly 30 completions in 2020 which is significantly down from the peak of 150 in 2012. The intended occupation for most apprentices and trainees was Logging Plant Operator (83%). The majority of apprentices and trainees in training were reported by Tasmania (52%), followed by Western Australia (19%) and New South Wales (16%).

For more data specific to your occupation, industry group or training package, visit NCVER's Data Builder.

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 Forest and Wood Products IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast identified the following generic skills 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.

By mid-2021 the forest industries had completed the immense job to mill the huge volume of sawlogs that were blackened during the 2019–20 summer bushfires and get that timber to market. Unfortunately, more than half the burnt trees in the fire affected regions were too young to save, with the salvage focus on getting all the trees older than 19 years and as much as possible of those over 12 years – resulting in harvest running 80% above normal. Work was also well underway to regenerate the forests damaged during the blazes with 4,500 hectares replanted in 2020 and another 7,000 hectares on track for 2021.

Australia is headed towards a major cliff in timber framing production, with current estimates that Australia will be 250,000 house frames short by 2035. The state-by-state analysis reveals just how many house frames short of demand Australia will be by 2035: Victoria will be a city the size of Geelong short, New South Wales will be Wagga Wagga and Tamworth short, Queensland will be a city the size of Cairns short, South Australia a Mount Gambier short, Western Australia a Bunbury short, Tasmania a city the size of Kingston short, the Northern Territory a town the size of Tennant Creek short and the Australian Capital Territory a suburb the size of Kambah. The report shows that state and federal governments need to seriously tackle the policies which will drive forward new plantings of the right types of trees at the right scale and in the right places. While the industry welcomed the Federal Government's announcement in October 2021 that new forestry plantations in key timber regions of Victoria and southern Tasmania will be able to participate in the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) and contribute towards Australia's 'Net Zero by 2050' target, further work is needed to ensure that the five remaining Regional Forestry Hubs which as yet do not have the same access to carbon markets – in Central and Southern New South Wales, Northern and Southern Queensland and the Northern Territory – are quickly given the same opportunities.

Some governments are listening to the Forestry sector and several premiers have made significant announcements. In October 2020, Victoria's Premier announced New Nursery to Grow More Timber and Gippsland Jobs whereby Victoria's forestry transition will be supported with the creation of a new state-owned nursery in East Gippsland, which will also help local forests and economies recover from the devastating 2019–20 Victorian bushfires. Establishment of the $10 million Victorian Forest Nursery will increase the eucalypt seedling supply chain and create up to 30 new jobs, most of which will be ongoing. The Program is part of the Government's $110 million investment in plantation timber. It supports the Victorian Forestry Plan and the timeline it sets to transition from harvesting native forests to a plantation-based sector. Currently five-out-of-six trees harvested in Victoria are from plantations and the state has the largest area dedicated to timber plantations in Australia. The nursery is expected to have a production capacity of up to five million seedlings each year, which could support plantings and reforestation of around 5,000 hectares annually. Production of eucalypt seedlings will support bushfire recovery replanting, forestry coupe regeneration, timber plantations and farm forestry programs in Gippsland as state forest harvesting decreases over the next decade. The East Gippsland community will benefit from new learning opportunities developed in consultation with the Forestec campus of TAFE Gippsland, along with options to reskill and employ existing timber industry workers. The nursery will also present opportunities for involvement and collaboration with local Aboriginal organisations.

In September 2021, Western Australia's Premier announced a record $350 million investment to expand the State's softwood plantation timber industry. This investment is expected to provide at least an additional 33,000 hectares of softwood timber plantation, with up to 50 million pine trees planted, sequestering between 7.9 and 9.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. It is estimated that around 60 direct timber industry jobs and 80 indirect jobs will be created as part of the expansion plan, with the new jobs initially associated with the plantation establishment program.

The Forest Management and Harvesting Industry Reference Committee is currently overseeing the Responding and Assisting in Bushfires Project. 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.

Victoria's Country Fire Authority (CFA) updated their Forestry Industry Brigades: Training Specifications and Guidelines in August 2020. Training and development of Forestry Industry Brigade (FIB) members is a vital component in ensuring consistent operational service delivery and safety of all members. This document provides core information to FIB members and training officers and is designed to:

  • Identify training requirements for FIB officers and members
  • Put these requirements into context with regard to national accreditation
  • Explain how training is to be implemented
  • Explain the skills development pathway, recognition and assessment process
  • Identify learning materials that support FIB members to acquire the appropriate skills for their role
  • Support FIB members involved in planning, coordinating and conducting training
  • Promote process consistency and equitable access to training resources for all FIB members.

Effective training is a key risk reduction activity in the Forestry sector. The Forestry Log Haulage: Draft Code of Practice identifies the risks associated with loading and transporting logs and describes equipment, procedures, training, and other methods to eliminate or minimise those risks. Training must be task specific and audience orientated to effectively build the knowledge of participants and key information, however technical, should be covered in a way that ensures a clear understanding is obtained by all participants. Training of all parties in the log haulage industry is particularly important as experience in another heavy vehicle industry is not necessarily transferable to log haulage. Key activities are listed for the various roles involved with log haulage.

  • The safety training program, Safe and Skilled, has been enhanced to deliver even more safety awareness for employees across Forestry sector workplaces. The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) Growers Chamber ratified a suite of program improvements designed to ensure employees are correctly trained on safety. With the assistance of skills development organisation, ForestWorks, Safe and Skilled now has an additional list of approved predecessor units which means that prior training will receive the recognition that it deserves. Furthermore, the program will now annually review and revise units to ensure that they are current, and their prior status is recognised.

Links and resources

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

 

IRC and Skills Forecasts

Forest Management and Harvesting IRC

 

Relevant research

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

Australia's Timber Framing Cliff – 250,000 House Frames Short by 2035 – Master Builders Australia (MBA) and Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA)

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)

Djarlma Plan for the Western Australian Forestry Industry: A Framework for Action 2019–2030 – Forest Products Commission (FPC)

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)

Federal Government Unlocks Potential for 100 Million New Trees – Delivering Timber for Homes and Steps Toward Net Zero [media release] – Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA)

Forestry Industry Brigades: Training Specifications and Guidelines – Country Fire Authority (CFA)

Forestry Log Haulage: Draft Code of Practice – Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) and Australian Forest Contractors Association (AFCA)

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

New Nursery to Grow More Timber and Gippsland Jobs [media release] – Victorian Government

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)

Premier Announces Softwood Investment – Forest Products Commission (FPC)

'Safe and Skilled' Made More Accessible to Forestry Workers [media release] – Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA), Australian Forest Contractors Association (AFCA) and ForestWorks

Sixteen Months on From Bushfires, Forest Industries' Mission to Use as Much Burnt Timber as Possible for Home Construction is Coming to an End [media release] – Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA)

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 (FPC)

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Arboriculture Australia

Australian Forest Contractors Association (AFCA)

Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA)

Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA)

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

Forestry Australia (formerly Institute of Foresters of Australia (IFA) and Australian Forest Growers (AFG))

ForestWorks

Responsible Wood (formerly Australian Forestry Standard Ltd)

Tasmanian Forest Products Association (TFPA)

Tasmanian Forests and Forest Products Network (TFFPN)

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 Forest Products Association (VFPA)

 

Government bodies

National Timber Councils Association (NTCA)

Timber Towns Victoria (TTV)

 

Employee associations

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)

Australian Workers’ Union (AWU)

Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU)

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2021, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, employment projections to May 2025
    • 030 Forestry and Logging
    • 051 Forestry Support Services.
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2025
    • 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 2021, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ06 - Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, viewed 1 August 2021, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2021

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, 2001 to 2021, 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 Collection, Total 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:

  • 2016 to 2020 program enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 subject enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 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:

  • 2011 to 2020 commencements
  • 2011 to 2020 completions
  • apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2020 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.
Updated: 17 Dec 2021
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