Critical shortage of skilled people
LABOUR SHORTAGES are limiting the forest contracting industry in Australia and also in New Zealand.
NZ’s Forest Industry Contractors Association (FICA) president Ross Davis says a lack of good people with the right skills is now having a real impact in forest workplaces, but he turned down suggestions that importing skilled people was the answer.
In Australia, Australia’s labour market appears to be completely disconnected from the domestic timber industry.
Australian Forest Contractors Association Chairman Adan Taylor said this was brought home recently when placing an online job advertisement. “I found there wasn’t even a category for jobs in our industry on two of the most popular job sites,” he said.
“This disconnection means that training providers, schools and therefore young people don’t even consider the timber industry as a career option.
“As a result, our recruitment is limited to hiring on attitude and training on the job. This is expensive and makes it very difficult in times of expansion (such as now).
“As a result, we need to find a way to engage with parents and offer them an alternative to traditional trades in order to secure local, non-university based jobs for their children. In Australian forest harvesting crews, most roles have been mechanised due to the relatively low volumes harvested by cable. These machines are sophisticated, high-tech and come with a significant price tag,” said Adan.
Ross Davis says the industry and government must re-look at how school-leavers are being prepared for real employment and should work together to improve funding and access to technology skills training.
“Our members have been working closely with some of the really practical technology institutes but we need more people with different skills from the past. Many more of our logging crews are using mechanised harvesters – providing a great workplace while at the same time making steep slope forest harvesting safer,” said Davis.
He said the bigger challenges for employers in the forest are:
• Students and their parents don’t yet understand that technology skills are now the key to getting good forestry jobs. “We need early risers and hard workers. For highly skilled young people, the jobs are there now to run multi-million dollar forest harvesting machines.”
• “We don’t need so many lowskilled people, but the training must be based around practical operating skills. They need to be productive when running a large harvester with several on-board computer systems.” “Our industry is New Zealand’s third largest now. We’re poised for growth in both logs for export and to local sawmills. We really need smart skilled young people who are not afraid of hard work. The rewards are there for the right people,” says Davis.