Otago’s forestry industry personnel shortfalls are being addressed through a recent Provincial Growth Fund skills and employment programme funding boost of $63,000.
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced recently that Te Ara Mahi would invest $63,000 in the 2020 school year to support eight 17 and 18-year-olds to enter the Tokomairiro Training Forestry Pathways course in Milton.
Trialled early this year, the first Forestry Pathways course is run by Tokomairiro Training, accredited by Tokomairiro High School and governed by the school’s board of trustees.
The course syllabus has just been completed and its graduates are already employed in the forestry industry.
Forestry industry trainer Alastair McKenzie said the funding would help to continue the programme.
“This year, all eight from this first class passed, six are working, one went home to Germany to work in forestry and one has returned for more study, so it was a very successful year,” he said.
Mr McKenzie said interest was high in next year’s course.
The Forestry Pathways course was created for senior students still enrolled in school.
Students attend for two days a week the emphasis being on practical, industry-based training, focused on the forestry and farming industries.
“We are creating an awareness that forestry is not all about planting and cutting,” Mr McKenzie said.
“There are so many more exciting career paths for students within this industry and the recent success we have had allowed us to help place students in the forestry management sector, the supply sector and in the agri forestry sector.”
Tokomairiro Training was situated in the hub of the forestry industry in the Otago region, supported by the Southern Wood Council and three major forestry companies, he said.
“It allows us to call on the industry for practical training and for work experience during the year, as we expose these students to the many career paths offered.”
Tokomairiro High student James O’Reilly said he had always been interested in a career in forestry and was surprised by the options available.
“Without this course I would have struggled to find any opportunities in the industry,” James said.
“The eye-catcher for me is working in land prep and resource management. It’s outside work, which I love.”
The year 13 student said the one-on-one training gave him the confidence to pursue his career choice.
Leah Holloway said she had discovered the industry was much more involved than she had originally thought.
The year 12 Tokomairiro High student would move into log measuring, which she described as technically based but “pretty good” as it has allowed her to also work in the planting, pruning and thinning sector of the industry.