Suomen Metsäyhdistyksen nuorisoviestinnän johtava asiantuntija Sirpa Kärkkäinen katsoo kohti kameraa.
Sirpa Kärkkäinen is concerned about the polarisation of forest knowledge, among other things. “It would lead to us having young people who know a lot about forests and young people who know nothing about them.”

Forests are a source of abundance and the object of many concerns

In the opinion of young people, safeguarding the diversity of forests is the most important thing. People are also looking to forests for recreation and wood production.

The Nuorten Metsäbarometri (Young People’s Forest Barometer) carried out in 2022 indicates that Finnish young people have a more positive view on the commercial utilisation of forests than before. The barometer was previously carried out in 2019. 

Leading expert in youth communications Sirpa Kärkkäinen from the Finnish Forest Association admits to even being a little surprised by the result. 

“Due to the active biodiversity discussions, I was thinking, well, I wonder what will come of this. But the message turned out to be rather positive. One of the conclusions to be drawn from the results is that the forestry sector has been able to clearly tell the public about its innovations and new solutions, such as the replacement of plastics and new wood-based textile materials. The same is probably true for wood construction, the solutions of which act as long-term carbon stocks.” 

Kärkkäinen points out that forests already spark a lot of discussion in general because they are so close to all of us. 

“Many different kinds of goals have been set for forests and their use nowadays. Forests are important in terms of sustainability, and biodiversity must be safeguarded. We should be able to go to forests for recreation and we should be able to use them for raw materials for various products. There are numerous forest discussions and the forestry sector must present itself without arrogance. The opinions of young people on forests and their use must be taken into account.”

According to Kärkkäinen, an essential thing in communications and forest discussions is also the clarifying and understanding of the perspective. 

“Forests change constantly, and the species do too. You have to be able to explain in a reasonable way why we have acted in certain ways at certain times, for example in terms of felling, and why we act differently now.”  

The sector needs marketing  that starts early and continuous recruitment

Currently, nearly every industry is suffering from a labour shortage. The forest industry is also in constant need of new skilled workers. 

The attractiveness of the forestry sector is affected by how well the sector is known. It is natural that, if the forest industry is represented in one’s hometown, it is better known there than in those places where there are no production facilities. 

Generally speaking, it is important to make forests and their conditions known, which needs to be started early. 

“Of course, the familiarity of children and young people with forests is affected by their home, friends, and social media, for example. The impact of school is large as well. And things such as whether it is possible to get to know the industry during work practice periods, among others, have a very concrete effect.” 

In terms of attractiveness, sharing information on forests should already
be started during early childhood education. 

“In a way, the ship has already sailed if forest education begins only at the end of primary school or for those considering their possible education path.”

Another issue pertaining to the availability of labour, according to Kärkkäinen, is that the sector’s marketing of work opportunities should be divorced from the economic climate. 

“It should not be that you start to attract labour and heavily market the industry only once the need for labour is the greatest. Marketing should be divorced from the economic climate. Recruitment should be continuous and the message should always be that the forest industry is a good industry now and in the future.”