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Student story

Abby Ayson

20 July 2023

"Forestry is a growing industry and you absolutely can’t go wrong by choosing to study it..."


Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Forest Engineering

Graduate Forest Engineer, PF Olsen Ltd


Starting off her career in the industry after finishing her Forest Engineering studies, Abby looks forward to the future job opportunities that will come her way.

"There are so many different parts of the industry – I think a lot of people just assume that it’s only about cutting trees down, which isn’t the case at all. There are lots of changes happening right now and there is a lot of scope to make a meaningful contribution to the industry, through things like your final year project, as well as general work," she says.

Abby discovered Forest Engineering studies to be the perfect subject for her interests in environmental planning and management.

"I decided to investigate Forest Engineering and never really looked back. There are so many job opportunities and it sounded like the perfect combination of technical work in the office with outdoor jobs too."

Choosing to come down to UC from Auckland, Abby enrolled with an Undergraduate Entrance Scholarship, and got readily involved in the forestry community.

"It’s definitely given me confidence to problem solve on the job. Because the School of Forestry is so well linked to industry you learn about things as they are being rolled out, and the courses are really up-to-date so it’s helped in both technical and practical ways. Having lots of different courses throughout the degree also really helps you figure out what interests you and what doesn’t!

"I would recommend coming to Christchurch and getting involved, it sets you up so well for the future and can send you in directions you never would have thought to go in. Forestry is a growing industry and you absolutely can’t go wrong by choosing to study it."

UC had also seemed "like a cool place to come to" with its clubs scene. Throughout her years, Abby had been involved with FORSOC Forestry Society, as well as ENSOC and SVA, and played for the UC Hockey Club.

"It’s such a social environment, you make so many good friends and awesome memories. In saying that, the work can be challenging but it does make it easier having people around you who are also going through the same thing. If anything had to sum up my time here, it would probably be work hard, play hard."

She was also a part of the Emerging Leaders Development Scholarship Programme, attending leadership skills workshops and retreats with fellow students, and being on the exec for her second year in the programme.

Following her studies at UC, Abby went on to the graduate programme with PF Olsen Ltd, where she had previously completed her summer practical work placements in her degree. Her current work sees her experience the different departments in the company, such as engineering and consulting.

"I learn all about some of the engineering principles behind parts of the forestry industry such as roading and culvert design, as well as more broad forestry fundamentals like forest management and harvest planning," she says.

Finding her place in the forestry industry has emphasised to Abby how widespread it is, and proved the value of her Forest Engineering degree.

"Absolutely do it," she says. "The industry is crying out for professional graduates, and there are so many opportunities both in terms of the type of jobs and future management positions. You can go all around the country, and most graduate packages are just as good (if not better) than from other specialisations. 

"I would potentially like to become chartered and help to increase engineering capabilities with regards to road design. A lot of forests are now in very steep terrain and difficult to access, so good road design is a really important part of harvesting the trees safely and economically."

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