Forestry course guaranteeing graduates work
Friday 30 Jul 2021At the height of Covid-19’s 2020 global impact job losses were rife within New Zealand’s forestry and wood industry. Now the sector is faced with lack of skilled workers and an ageing workforce. The dilemma has prompted the Central North Island Wood Council to launch a unique course in Tokoroa offering young people guaranteed employment and an insight into more than 40 jobs across the sector.
It comes amid New Zealand experiencing an export and building boom. International log prices have reached historic levels and June GDP figures for the first quarter show a 6.6 per cent increase in the construction sector. In the hope of meeting the demand the wood council has partnered with Te Uru Rākau (New Zealand Forest Service), Forest Growers Levy Trust, the South Waikato District Council, and the South Waikato Investment Fund Trust (SWIFT) to offer a fees free programme through Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology.
The six to twelve-week Generation Programme, which is a more comprehensive version of one that’s been run in Gisborne for three years, offers participants work experience in silviculture, harvesting and mechanisation, processing, manufacturing, technology, office management, health and safety, roading, dispatch, and transport.
Site visits, training simulators, fitness and nutrition, first aid, transportation and licencing, drug and alcohol education, and NZQA qualifications are all built in. Once completed participants will go into paid employment with six months of pastoral care support and options to further train for up to two years to Level 4/ diploma/ degree level.
Central North Island Wood Council chief executive Damita Mita said the programme would be of significant benefit to the industry. She said the skill shortage it's facing was due in part to younger generations not understanding its makeup. “Across the industry there is a shortage of skilled workers and the average age for a forester out harvesting is 50,” she said.
“The view of a lot of young people of the forestry sector is planting and cutting a tree down but there is so much more to it now, especially with the use of technology. It has become more skilled and more mechanised so we want young people to be coming through that, to understand that, and to be working up in terms of their qualifications.
“It doesn't just finish here, we do a Level Two certificate and once they make a decision around what they are wanting to go into, the expectation is that they will continue their study. It’s about creating that pathway but also creating a work-ready pool of young people.”
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