Forestry course guarantees graduates to work in a shortage sector


At the height of the global impact of Covid-19 in 2020, job losses were rife in New Zealand’s forestry and timber industry.

Today, the sector faces a shortage of skilled labor and an aging workforce.

The dilemma prompted the Central North Island Wood Council to launch a unique course in Tokoroa offering young people guaranteed employment and an overview of over 40 jobs in the sector.

It comes as New Zealand is experiencing an export and construction boom. International log prices have reached historic levels and June GDP figures for the first quarter show a 6.6% increase in the construction sector.

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Hoping to meet demand, the Timber 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 free program. by Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology.

The Six to Twelve Week Generation program, which is a more comprehensive version of a program held in Gisborne for three years, provides participants with work experience in forestry, harvesting and mechanization, processing, manufacturing, technology, office management, health. and security, road, shipping and transportation.

Site visits, training simulators, fitness and nutrition, first aid, transportation and licensing, drug and alcohol education, and NZQA qualifications are all integrated. Upon completion, participants will obtain paid employment with six months of pastoral support and options to continue their training. up to two years up to level 4 / diploma / diploma.

Exporters welcomed the news of international logging prices reaching historic highs.

Dominico Zapata / Tips

Exporters welcomed the news of international logging prices reaching historic highs.

Central North Island Wood Council executive director Damita Mita said the program would be of great benefit to the industry. She said the skills shortage she faced was in part due to younger generations not understanding her makeup.

“Across the industry there is a shortage of skilled workers and the average age of a harvesting forester is 50,” she said.

“The perspective of many young people in the forestry sector is to plant and cut down a tree, but there is so much more to be done now, especially with the use of technology.

“It’s become more skilled and more mechanized, so we want young people to go through that, understand that and improve their skills.

“It doesn’t just end here, we do a level two certificate and once they have made a decision on what they want to do, they are expected to continue their education. It is a question of creating this path, but also of creating a pool of young people ready to work.

Mita said the interest has exceeded expectations.

“The cohort size is supposed to be 15, but we currently have 18 enrolled and then another enrolled today, so it’s pretty amazing,” she said.

Skilled workers in forestry and the wood industry are in high demand (file photo).

Kavinda Herath / Tips

Skilled workers in forestry and the wood industry are in high demand (file photo).

“You Ohomai told me that there has never been a start of a program with so many people and that it has happened.”

South Waikato District Council’s economic development director Paul Bowden said considerable groundwork had been done before the program was put in place.

“We held seminars to talk to the industry to understand and quantify the problem and the needs and one of the key things we insisted on was that it was not like 40 years ago when they started to work, ”he said.

“The whole world view is completely different and they have to meet young people in the middle, otherwise they will have no one in their area and they will die.

“I think it has been well received by the industry and [those within it] are starting to learn that they need to think more about the well-being of their employees. It’s not like this is where you would end up [workers] in the bush and give them a chainsaw and a man.

Bowden said that a particularly positive aspect of the program was working with the Department of Social Development (MSD) to enable people to stop receiving benefits and work.

“Part of the 15 is reserved for [clients] to get them back to work. It’s awesome, ”he said.

A new program at Tokoroa gives students a taste of what the forestry and timber industry has to offer.

Dominico Zapata / Tips

A new program at Tokoroa gives students a taste of what the forestry and timber industry has to offer.

Taupo MP and National Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston also expressed support for the program and stressed the importance of pastoral care in keeping young people in long-term employment.

“When I think of He Poutama Rangatahi (HPR), which we created in Northland five years ago, this pastoral care of making sure they get out of bed, exercise, eat and eat. feed was really important, but if they don’t turn it’s also about looking at what the reasons were and how you can fix them, ”she said.

“Supporting people in an environment not only gives them a voice, but actually takes care of other issues that may have been issues in the past. “

Mita said the program will be run twice a year with plans to eventually run it in Rotorua as well.

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