For most of us, a Christmas tree is just a seasonal accessory. But there is a huge group of people who spend all their working lives outdoors in the fabulous wonderland that makes up our forests.
And today that industry is about far more than just cutting down trees for the living room in December – according to the latest figures, it is worth almost £1billion to the Scottish economy.
With that goes a boom in jobs, which is good news for anyone who does not want to sit behind a desk all day.
A total of 25,000 people are now employed either directly by Forestry Commission Scotland or work in connected areas such as tourism and leisure.
The Forestry Commission has 10 forest districts scattered throughout Scotland, from the northernmost North Highland through Cowal and Trossachs to Galloway, Dumfries and Borders – all of them carrying out all sorts of projects from timber processing to wildlife management.
Alternative fuels are a big part of what goes on in the forests.
Wood fuel and bio-energy schemes begin their lives in our forests and if we want these fuels to be sustainable then the Forestry Commission has to ensure that enough trees are planted for all of those used.
Sustainable timber is also used in construction, where high-quality wood products are used for cladding and flooring.
It is even the basis of lots of everyday things such as paper, plywood, MDF and wood chips.
Tracts of land owned by the Commission are rented out to windfarms – but these have to be managed so that Scotland’s great wildlife does not suffer.
Keeping the trees and land healthy is crucial and we trust the Forestry Commission to do this for us so that we can enjoy the countryside.
There are loads of great career oppportunities within this sector for people with a wide variety of talents.
There is a two-year graduate programme where entrants will learn a wide range of basic forestry terms and skills.
This is interspersed with shorter placements or secondments to help them learn about the business. And there are apprenticeship schemes and student sandwich places.
The apprenticeship scheme is open to anyone over the age of 16.
Successful applicants work towards a two-year level 3 Trees & Timber Modern Apprenticeship in either harvesting or forest establishment. They will undergo a mixture of formal training and practical work experience, as well as studying toward their SVQ qualification.
Working with the Forestry Commission makes the world a better place. It is also varied and interesting work giving most people great satisfaction.