Severe shortage of forestry workers in Japan
Japan is suffering a severe shortage of forestry workers at a time when many trees planted after World War II have grown enough and now need to be cut down.
Demand for domestic timber is expected to grow partly for use in facilities related to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
With Japan facing an urgent need to train industry-ready workers, the number of forestry colleges is increasing across the country.
Until fiscal 2011, there were only six forestry colleges, run by prefectural governments. But the number now stands at 14. In fiscal 2017, which starts in April, new colleges will open in Iwate, Hyogo and Wakayama prefectures.
In April 2012, Kyoto Prefectural College of Forestry was established in the town of Kyotanba in Kyoto Prefecture as the first forestry college in western Japan. The college offers a two-year program for up to 20 students. It includes the country's first course for students to learn how to use advanced forestry machinery.
Students will also be given the opportunity to obtain qualifications.
Fifty-eight students have so far graduated from the college, and about 90% of them are working in the forestry industry.
"Graduates of the Kyoto forestry college are actively sought in the industry," an official of the Forestry Agency said.
The high employment rate for graduates of the college is backed by an internship program in September and October that allows second-year students to experience two different places of work.
Students cannot get the full picture of workplaces just from their reputation, said Takuo Yamazaki, deputy head of the college, adding that the program also helps companies examine students' abilities.
In April 2015, Kochi Prefecture opened a forestry school in the city of Kami that offers a basic one-year course to help students acquire 12 qualifications needed for working in the industry.
The course, unlike standard two-year programs, meets the needs of people who want to learn skills quickly and find jobs soon, a prefectural official said.
All 14 students who graduated from the school in the first year were able to find jobs, including at forestry-related companies in the prefecture.
Tomonaga Nakashima, a Forestry Agency official, said many forestry companies have weak management bases and face difficulties developing human resources.
"This is why these companies want to hire people who have basic skills," he added, projecting that the need for forestry colleges will grow further.
Warning that schools may end up competing with each other for students, Nakashima said setting up forestry colleges jointly by neighboring prefectures could be one option.
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