A career in the forest industry has always been top of mind for University of Northern British Columbia first-year student Greg Daniels.
His father worked in the industry and he got a taste for it himself working entry-level positions out of high school. Now studying to be a registered professional forester, Daniels was honoured recently by the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) and the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers with the Skills Award for Aboriginal Youth.
“I was overwhelmed at first,” Daniels said of being one of two national recipients of the $2,500 scholarship. “It seemed like a bit much that I got it.”
Daniels had to write an essay as part of the application process and when he was selected as one of the winners he was flown to Ottawa to accept the award which included a ceremony on Parliament Hill. Christian Francis from Nova Scotia was the other recipient.
“Christian and Gregory exemplify the future of Canada’s forest sector and the important role that our Indigenous peoples play in its development, and I offer my congratulations,” Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr said in a news release announcing the recipients. “Our forest sector’s reach is global, but today’s awards remind us that it provides opportunities and careers for Canadians in communities across the country, including Indigenous communities.”
The award, which also comes with an iPad, helped solidify Daniels’ decision that he made the right career choice.
“I think it’s awards like this that lead to more Aboriginal involvement in the forestry industry,” he said.
Although Daniels is just wrapping up his first semester at UNBC, he is no stranger to the industry. After working at Arrowhead Forestry Services in his home community of Canim Lake, B.C., he first returned to school to earn a forest technician diploma at the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology.
After graduation he accepted a job with West Fraser in 100 Mile House working as a silviculture technician. He spent three years at the company, but the idea of continuing to further his education was always present.
“My employers really encouraged me to go back to school,” he said. “They thought I would do really well as a registered professional forester. I was hesitant at first, but I I’ve always wanted to grow and learn.”
When he decided to enter a degree program, UNBC was a natural choice.
“All the other people in the office came through the UNBC program and they had a lot of really good things to say about it,” he said. “Prince George has that unique feel. In some ways it’s a small town, but it’s still a city.”
Daniels plans to return to the West Fraser operation in 100 Mile House for summer student positions throughout his undergraduate journey and hopes to work for the company after graduation as well.
But he would also like to return home at some point and give back to the community of Canim Lake.
“My long-term goal is I’d really like to go back and help my reserve with their natural resources,” he said. “That would be my goal many years down the road when I’ve got some experience.”