Crit­i­cal short­age of skilled peo­ple

Australian Forests and Timber - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

Adan Tay­lor.

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