North Island College Accreditation to Open More Doors for Forestry Tech Students and Graduates

North Island College’s forestry technology graduates celebrated with a silver ring ceremony in April, as many are typically working in the field come graduation time in June. The college’s coastal forestry technologist program is also celebrating an achievement of its own: accreditation.

In January, the Coastal Forest Technology program was accredited by Technical Accreditation Canada (TAC), which audits technology or applied science programs. This subsequently led to accreditation as a Recognized Forestry Diploma Program with Forest Professionals BC (FPBC).

This means that NIC grads are now eligible to register with the FPBC as Training Forest Technologists (TFT), paving a path to becoming Registered Forest Technologists (RFT) after a 24-month articling period.

There were two previous cohorts for the forestry technology program, with the next set to graduate this June. The class celebrated last month by getting their silver rings, which are given out to new forestry professionals.

NIC’s program had to wait for the first cohort to graduate before it could apply for the accreditation.

“The first cohort started during COVID. This is the third cohort graduating this spring,” said Coleen MacLean-Marlow, program co-ordinator.

NIC then started on the process toward obtaining accreditation after the first class in 2022.

“There’s a really detailed self-assessment that we had to submit to TAC followed by the TAC review and site audit,” she said.

The site audit consisted of in-depth interviews about the program and online meetings with a variety of groups that included employers, alumni, instructors and current students. The college then received a follow-up report last fall and got word in early 2024 that it was officially accredited.

For graduate Vincent de Boer, this program gave him background in many aspects of forestry, including wildlife ecology, road design, silviculture and wildfire management. He is a mature student with a young family and a military background. He said he was surprised at what he could accomplish when it came to the academic aspects of the program.

“At first, I was challenged because it stimulated my mental aptitude. I was not used to that. Still, I am fulfilled by the educational experience, and I wouldn’t have preferred it any other way than what I experienced,” he said. “Before, I didn’t think I could take university-level courses. Now, I believe I can.”

For de Boer, the research project part of the program helped him figure out what he wants to pursue.

“Overall, I discovered a great deal about wildfire management and am keenly interested in pursuing this avenue of forestry. Without this research project, I would not have found this amazing field,” he said.

Even after a short time, the accreditation is raising the profile of the NIC program.

“It’s certainly helping with our applications already,” MacLean-Marlow said.

Usually, this is the first question people ask about a forestry program, she added, so having the accreditation logos on the program webpage is a boost to its exposure.

Accreditation can help open doors for NIC graduates. There are only five other post-secondary forestry technology programs in B.C. with accreditation. Most have been around for some time, so NIC program’s accreditation is news for the forestry technology field, as well as for the college.

MacLean-Marlow, who has been a Registered Professional Forester since 1992, sees this as a growing opportunity for a field facing a shortage of trained professionals, especially in light of an aging workforce.

Most of the graduates she knows are getting three or four offers right away, so this program will help keep them in demand.

“We simply can’t produce enough trainee forest technologists to meet the demand in the province,” she said. “Having the Forest Professionals BC accreditation is a pretty big milestone.”

Original article from North Island College