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Ciaran Walsh, Forestry Professional
Farming, Horticulture & Forestry

Ciaran Walsh, Forestry Professional

Ciaran Walsh works in the Forestry sector where his job involves administering grant applications for woodland creation schemes, approving felling licence applications, and giving general advice to woodland owners and managers.

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first question!

What were the main 'career decision' milestones in your life so far?

The main career milestones were completion of my degree and the broad ranging grounding and skills it gave me. Being part of the project team to deliver on the new timber auction system that was being implemented as it encompassed so many different teams and work flows and I was the representative for the southern half of the country.

Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?

Thatís hard to say but initially probably my father and grandfather who were both quite active and outdoors oriented. Later I would I would say my university colleagues, some of the lecturers and subsequently work colleagues that you would develop a good relationship with.

How did you go about getting your current job?

I was browsing various forestry forums looking for a new challenge and found this role and applied for it online, did the competency based application questionnaire and was called for an interview.

Describe a typical day?

My typical day varies particularly with the time of the year. I could be assessing an application and liaising with the applicant as to changes or corrections or consulting with a local authority on an application. Site visits to assess potential applications with an applicant are quite common where ground preparation, species selection, protection and selection of options can be advised upon. When claims come in on completion of the works such as fencing, ground preparation, planting etc. the site is usually inspected to ensure the items claimed for are complete and meet the claim and scheme option criteria.

What are the main tasks and responsibilities?

Administer and screen grant applications for woodland creation schemes. Assess and approve felling licence applications. Carry out EIA screening, general advice to woodland owners and managers.

What are the main challenges?

The main challenges in my current role are quite tight deadlines with some of the regulatory casework. Dealing with people in difficult situations such as where an illegal felling has occurred requires a professional, patient and firm approach.

What's cool?

The variety of the work you could be assessing a long term forest plan one day and visiting the site, inspecting a claim, visiting a felling licence site, responding to a report of an illegal felling, assessing a grant application and moving it through the various stages from start to finish.

What's not so cool?

There is a lot of administrative work and at different times of the year this can form the bulk of the work which means the opportunity to get out on site visits is reduced.

What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?

My current role is different in that I am now in a regulatory position where as up to this point I was in an operational role. This has been of significant benefit as I have a wealth of practical industry knowledge from GIS, spatial planning, harvest schedule planning, timber supply optimisation, re-stock planning, forest inventory, environmental assessment, health & safety assessment and now adding the regulatory and legislative intricacies that go with that.

What is your education to date?

I carried out my leaving certificate and studied the BAgrSc (Hons) in Forestry in UCD. My employers have been quite good about providing professional and personal development courses to aid in developing my skills and knowledge base.

What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?

The analytical and scientific nature of the degree course has proved hugely beneficial as I am quite often dealing with large chunks of data and or written information which require analysis and interpretation. The combination of forestry knowledge allied with the economic and business elements of the degree are vital to making appropriate decisions on forest management and being able to explore all of the options.

What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?

Being involved in nationwide internal project to deliver timber to meet the customersí needs whilst a new auction system was being put in place. Planning the harvest and restock schedule for a large and quite sensitive part of the country and securing felling licences through negotiation and site specific detailed planning for sensitive sites.

What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?

Patience helps given the longer term nature of forestry! The ability to analyse and interpret data quickly and make effective decisions based on this. The ability to build relationships with colleagues and external stakeholders.

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

There a number of perks to a career in forestry particularly if you are interested in an outdoors lifestyle and donít mind bad weather! The work is quite varied and will present different challenges regularly. The possible downside is that at times career progression opportunities can be slow to come around.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

My currently role is quite different and often reliant on others to complete certain parts of work before I could progress my workload which can be frustrating but once youíre aware of it you can plan accordingly. The outdoors element of the role are quite varied as I could be looking at a greenfield site that is potentially being planted, in a mature forest considering a forest plan, inspecting a felling licence or a claimed site. There is a variety to the role which makes it quite appealing.

What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?

Calm and professional demeanour, attention to detail and a sense of humour!

Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?

Obviously there is quite a bit of health & safety training required given the nature of the industry and you are often working alone in remote locations. Most of my employers so far have provided training courses in different things such as harvest schedule optimisation, GIS and spatial planning tools, timber forecasting, environmental impact assessment, landscape design and forest planning, time management, communications and negotiation courses. In terms of formal education I intend on undertaking a masters in the next 12 to 18 months.

What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?

Having worked in the industry beforehand on the operational side was of great benefit before moving into the regulatory work. It meant that I had a good grasp of the legislative element as well as the practical and technical knowledge to be able to offer advice on what would be best with different grant scheme options. Work in the regulatory/compliance environment would clearly be beneficial also, but a mixture of the various sides of the industry is very helpful.

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