New fees-free forestry apprenticeships offer flexibility

 
New apprenticeship programmes will give New Zealand forestry workers the flexibility they need to succeed – and apprentices could qualify for two years of funding under the government’s new “fees free” scheme. New Zealand Industry training organisation Competenz has launched two forest harvesting apprenticeships – one in manual operations and one in mechanised operations.

They have been designed with extensive input from Forest Industry Contractors Association (FICA) members, logging contractors and forestry managers, and to ensure they are modern and practical. Competenz chief executive Fiona Kingsford says: “We surveyed FICA members in November 2016 to gauge feedback on the need for apprenticeships, and the ideal programme content and duration. The survey confirmed that yes, the industry wanted an apprenticeship programme, the ideal duration was two to three years, and a mix of skill sets across operations and levels were required.”

With mechanisation increasing, a specific apprenticeship has been developed that ensures apprentices gain key entry-level skills and knowledge before advancing to operation of mechanised processors and harvesters. It also allows for people completing the basic machine operations programme through a provider to start an apprenticeship when they are employed.

Kingsford says forest harvesting apprenticeships offered in the past have been challenging to finish on time given the unique work environment. “Apprentices change roles within crews or move between crews a lot which means their roles and responsibilities change. We found a lot of them were having to pull out half-way through their training because they couldn’t complete their qualifications. But these new programmes are flexible and our industry partners agree they are fit for purpose.”

On-the-job training without the fees

The government has made it more affordable for employers to train people on-the-job with two years fees-free industry training through Competenz. This means the costs usually paid by employers, apprentices and trainees in the first two years will now be free for some people. Apprentices can check their eligibility at www.feesfree.govt.nz before signing a training agreement.

The policy came into effect on 1 January 2018 and Competenz is already signing up people who qualify for funding. To find out more about forest harvesting apprenticeships, call the Competenz Customer Services team on 0800 526 1800.

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