August 25, 2020 10:52 am Leave your thoughts
One of the things I have really enjoyed this summer is working with the two people responsible for silviculture at Weyerhaeuser Grande Prairie. Tyler Niles and Jamie Miller have taken all the silviculture interns under their metaphorical wings and helped us develop skills that we will need in the future as foresters. Through talking with them both through the summer, I found out that neither of them had taken a traditional path into their current positions. As someone who has also taken something of a non-traditional path into forestry, I wanted to sit down and talk with them about their career experiences and how they ended up where they are today. These short profiles are snapshots of their respective career trajectories, and some suggestions of important skills that forestry students may want to develop to help them be successful.
Jamie Miller started in forestry as a tree planter in Kapuskasing, ON. From there, she became a crewboss, and then became the camp supervisor responsible for all of Outland’s Weyerhaeuser Grande Prairie silviculture contracts. During that time, she was responsible for running tree planting, backpack herbicide, aerial herbicide, and cone picking contracts. I know from my own experience working as a silviculture contractor that this requires a tremendous degree of organizational skill and leadership. Jamie says that the key skills that she picked up during this time are coordinating and managing people, being able to work unsupervised, and multitasking.
While she was building a career in silviculture, Jamie also completed a degree in Accounting. Her current position, as a Silviculture Operations Supervisor at Weyerhaeuser Grande Prairie, uses a lot of the skills she learned during her degree. “If you’re not great with numbers,” Jamie says, “you will struggle in silviculture.” A lot of Jamie’s job involves accounting-type tasks, such as block accounting and landbase balancing. However, she also manages several contractors at the same time, making sure they are all following Weyerhaeuser’s safety policy and meeting their project objectives. All of Jamie’s job tasks are fundamental for meeting regulatory silviculture obligations, reinforcing Weyerhaeuser’s safety culture, and ensuring Weyerhaeuser’s practice of sustainable forestry.
Tyler Niles grew up in Drayton Valley, AB, and got into forestry after high school, when he enrolled in the Forest Technology diploma program at NAIT. After completing his program, Tyler worked in forestry for a little while before deciding to become an entrepreneur. He opened his own company, focusing on land reclamation for the energy industry. Legislation around oilfied reclamation requirements had recently changed, and Tyler saw an opportunity to apply silvicultural techniques to meet those requirements successfully. At the same time, he completed a forestry degree at the University of Alberta. After running his company for nine years, however, Tyler decided to return to forestry when he was offered his current position at Weyerhaeuser as Silviculture Forester for Grande Prairie Timberlands.
While I was talking with Tyler, he expounded on the importance of soft skills for building a career. In Tyler’s opinion, acquiring soft skills was the most beneficial part of earning his university degree. “The most value was through the English classes, improving my writing, improving my communication skills.” He also identifies being willing to take risks, explore new ideas, and sell one’s ideas as beneficial traits for a forester starting out in their career. The sheep project that I wrote about in an earlier post is Tyler’s brainchild, for example.“You have a long career to come back from some bad mistakes,” Tyler says, “so take some risks.”
And that’s it for me! The end of this summer is bittersweet. My internship is nearly over, and many of the other interns have already left for their homes, to quarantine before classes start or to attend field school. Up north, even the leaves on the poplar trees have started to change colour and fall. It’s been a pleasure blogging about my internship at Weyerhaeuser Grande Prairie. I feel that I’ve learned a lot here and have been able to participate in several interesting projects. I’m grateful to FPAC for providing me with this opportunity and I am excited to see what the next school year holds.