‘It would be wonderful to see more women pursuing forestry at third level’

While forestry may not be seen as an obvious choice for a woman – particularly one who got 510 points in her Leaving Cert – Stacey Bradley revels in her job.

“My grandfather worked in forestry until he retired. I always had an interest in the environment and natural resources so my interest in forestry sprang from that,” she said.

A native of Wexford, she attended secondary school in St Mary’s, New Ross. After Leaving Cert, she went to Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) to pursue a degree in forestry.

“WIT seemed the natural choice for me as it is in the south east; the course itself had an excellent practical element which made it appealing. Also, WIT offered both a level seven ordinary degree in forestry which students can attain in three years, and also a level eight which requires students to stay on for a fourth year.

“So I knew I had the option to leave college after three years with a qualification under my belt,” she said.

I had a brilliant experience at WIT. The course content covered a wide range of subjects relating to forestry, science and practical forest management. The lecturing staff were excellent and have a brilliant rapport with students.

“I felt like the lecturers gave us a lot of their time and support with our studies; which I suppose is a benefit of having small classes.

“Most of the modules had a practical component which was laboratory work or field trips and also the second semester of second year is spent on placement which I did in an arboretum,” said Bradley.

“The classes in WIT are typically in and around 30 students. When I was studying there was maybe 15 students or so in third year and six of us moved onto the fourth year level eight course.

“The majority of my class were men but there was another woman which was nice. There were also a few other females in the years above me in college.

 In my opinion, it would be wonderful to see more women pursuing forestry at third level and working in the industry. Forestry isn’t usually associated with women’s careers but speaking from my own experience – a person can have a really enjoyable job and rewarding career in forestry.

She put the course content to use after graduating.

“The field trips and practical experience were invaluable in terms of both learning skills and getting exposure to forestry companies and the larger industry. When I graduated, I felt that I was very well prepared to start working in the forestry industry,” she said.

Immediately after graduation, Bradley worked as a research assistant for the Wood Energy Research Group at WIT. She then joined Coillte as part of  its graduate development programme.

“I worked with Coillte for over two years and gained great experience there; in summer 2016 I joined the Irish Forestry Unit Trust, (IForUT).

“IForUT is a forest investment fund; facilitating Irish pension fund and charity investment in Irish forestry. “It’s Ireland’s largest private forest owner with a forestry portfolio of approximately 17000ha,” said Bradley.

Her responsibilities include GIS mapping; forest inspections; updating the forest inventory and assisting other members of the IForUT team.

“IForUT is FSC certified so forest certification administration such as management plans and audits are also a large part of my job. I’ve no plans for changes in the future as IForUT is a great company to work for and I enjoy my work. There is plenty of variety in my day-to-day job and abundant opportunities for me to learn and develop,” she said.

Advice for students

For the current crop of Leaving Cert students, she has this advice: “It’s tough to know what you want to do when you are only 16 or 17 and still in school. My advice to people contemplating forestry as a career would be to talk to forestry students and graduates to get an idea of what forestry in Ireland is all about.

“Speak with forestry companies with a view to doing a work placement. This would give someone a great feel for the types of jobs available. I think it’s important to research the courses; you must do as much as you can to make sure they are a good fit for you.”

“Forestry is well worth considering. It’s a dynamic industry that is growing. I think there will continue to be great job opportunities for graduates in the future,” she said.

WIT 20th anniversary

The land management course at WIT had its first intake of students in 2006. This year is the 20th anniversary of the start of the BSc in forestry course.

Dr. Nick McCarthy, the first lecturer employed on it and current course leader at WIT, said that Teagasc Agriculture College in Ballyhaise, also runs a Post-Leaving Cert course in forestry which is available to students who may not have obtained the required points for either WIT or UCD.

In addition, WIT has a pathway for students completing this Teagasc course to progress onto the BSc in forestry course, and beyond, if they choose. In fact, we had a recent graduate with a Level 10 PhD in forestry in 2014, who started in Ballyhaise at level 6, and worked his way through the system.

Dr. McCarthy said it was important that students were aware it was not the end of the world, or the end of their dream of becoming a forester, if they did not get high points in the Leaving Cert.