The forest sector in northern Saskatchewan must contend with labour shortages, skills gaps, and the desire by Indigenous communities to expand the sector toward renewable and alternative forest products.
Indigenous communities have built considerable economic power in Saskatchewan’s forest sector by supporting targeted training for community members throughout the forest value chain. Sustaining that power will require more Indigenous people working in positions across the sector, including higher-skilled occupations.
However, many younger workers are not interested in entering the industry, and recent technological advances in forestry have made access to higher-level training even more essential. Indigenous communities also feel ambivalent about conventional forestry’s effects on the environment and traditional lifestyles. Incorporating alternative and regenerative forest products is one potential solution.
To address all of these issues, the various players in northern Saskatchewan’s skills development ecosystem, including education providers, governments, industry and learners, must coordinate among themselves to craft the training opportunities needed to bring the sector into the future.
Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan’s forest regions face a tension between opportunities for well-paid local work in the forest sector and concerns about encroachment on traditional lifestyles on the land and risks to ecological integrity.
Opportunities to strengthen the Indigenous forest sector in Saskatchewan include alternative uses of forests, such as agroforestry and non-timber forest products. Educational providers should equip learners with knowledge about ecology, environmental science, and business management if local communities are to develop this potential.