Gabby Higney is on a mission to make a positive difference in the world. Her drive comes from her love of nature, her experience as a forestry summer student with West Fraser, and her education — she recently graduated from the Forest Technology program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton.
She recalls how nature has always been part of her life: “Growing up I loved to camp, hike, and press plants. I loved being outdoors and being hands-on.” But instead of pursuing studies in the environmental sector, Gabby initially chose to follow in the steps of her older sister instead – as a welder.
“As soon as she graduated, she pursued welding,” Gabby says of her sister. “There are not many women welding, or that are Chipewyan doing super well, representing strong women in that type of industry. I respected her for being a trailblazer.”
But Gabby’s time as an apprentice welder didn’t suit her the way she had hoped. The disappointment led her to reconsider her career objectives, and to encourage her to pursue her lifelong love of nature in a related profession. “The more I learned about forestry, the more respect I had for the industry,” she says. So, she applied to the Forest Technology program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.
Her hands-on program included field time, and her position as a forestry summer student was an opportunity to use what she learned in the classroom in a real-life setting.
The ability to work outdoors, and in a team has convinced Gabby that forestry is the right path for her. In her role, Gabby was responsible for two major tasks. The first half of her summer was spent completing reforestation stocking surveys. These surveys are completed before performance and establishment surveys, and they ensure that everything grows back to legal standards.
The second half of her summer was spent supervising tree planters. She worked with them, going over sites, explaining plans and checking that their tree quality was up to standards.
Her time came with some challenges. As a first-year student in the field, it was hard to always be confident in her decisions.
“You are at the bottom of the totem pole, and always second guessing yourself and decisions. But it all comes with experience,” Gabby says.
Despite these challenges, she is committed to also help address some of the misconceptions of the industry.
“This is an industry that cares and wants to make the effort to better improve the environment. If that is a value you share, then I would recommend looking into this program,” Gabby says.
Gabby is excited to be back at West Fraser Timber, having accepted a four-month position to continue her career in forestry. On her right path, as a trailblazer of her own, Gabby is confident that she will be the decision-maker that influences the good decisions of future generations.
“I am absolutely interested in pursuing a career in this field. It took me several years to realize this is what I wanted.”
West Fraser Timber is an SFI Program Participant, an employer of Green Jobs youth through PLT Canada, and a National Sponsor of PLT Canada’s Green Ride for Green Jobs bike ride across Canada.
“This is an industry that cares and wants to make the effort to better improve the environment. If that is a value you share, then I would recommend looking into this program.”
Gabby Higney – Forest Technology graduate and employee with West Fraser Timber.