Staff shortfall threat to Christmas tree supply

Trees and timber industry facing bleak future as workforce ages

By Mark Hotton A potential 40 per cent shortfall in Christmas-tree industry staff could start to affect production and prices in the next decade, according to sector skills council Lantra. The organisation has warned that by 2020, the Christmas-tree industry could face a shortage of skilled employees, after research revealed that 40.7 per cent of staff are aged between 45 and 54. Lantra industry partnership manager Ros Johnson said: “It is a real concern for the industry. A large proportion of employees will reach retirement age within the next 15 years and businesses are experiencing critical levels of recruitment. “In the landscape gardening industry almost half the staff are aged under 35,” he said. “It is therefore vitally important that we recruit people into this industry.” To address the shortage, Lantra is working with organisations and businesses in the industry to improve careers information to schools and colleges. Access to, and the quality of, training is also being improved to ensure it meets business needs. Johnson said the industry offered good opportunities for employment. “If you’re a young person the trees and timber industry is a good place to build a profitable and dynamic business.” There has been a two to three per cent rise, year on year, in real tree sales. British Christmas Tree Growers Association figures suggest about 8.2 million trees would have been sold in December, up from three million in 1991.

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