Return to training crews to solve
A MOVE TO RE-INTRODUCE THE TRAINING CREW CONCEPT used by the NZ Forest Service and large forestry companies in the past is being touted as a way to attract recruits to the industry and upskill existing workers in the future.
A shortage of labour and issues with training people to use machines on the job, prompted contractors, forest owners/managers, learning institutions and others to gather in Rotorua last month to seek a solution.
Those attending the meeting were pleased that the issues of training and recruitment were being taken more seriously. Organisers will now sift through the points raised during the discussion to formulate a plan to work with, including how the training crew suggestion can be implemented, using the Scandinavian model as a possible base.
The idea, which was flagged in the FICA column in the August issue of NZ Logger magazine, is being driven by Rayonier Matariki Forests’ Quality Manager, Fraser Field.
He says: “What really gave me the idea was the constant questions from contractors about ‘how the hell am I going to find good people’. It got me thinking about what we need to do to fill that void.
“There is growing awareness of the need to attract and train personnel into careers operating machines in the forest industry. Currently the existing framework lacks coherence, sufficient trainees, scale and adequate funding.”
Whilst the focus is on training people to use machines in the forest, Mr Field says his proposal would incorporate all facets of education and upskilling in the forest.
With the backing of Rayonier Matariki Forests management, Mr Fields has spoken to other forest owners and managers, as well as the contractors organisation, FICA, to get the ball rolling.
He is using the forestry programme devised by the former Wairakei Institute, now renamed Toi Ohomai, as an example of what can be achieved around the country.
Toi Ohomai has been redeveloping its forestry studies to take account of the new technology being employed in the bush, with a strong emphasis on giving trainees experience and tuition in operating modern harvesting, processing, loading and transporting equipment, using the latest simulators and now their own tracked machine.
Toi Ohomai has purchased a Cat 324DL grapple loader that has been working in the forest with P and D Stephens Logging, thanks to assistance from PF Olsen. In addition to training people on its simulators, the machine will be used near Toi Ohomai’s training mill just south of Rotorua to give them practical experience.
Mr Field says: “Toi Ohomai has demonstrated a successful training process, and the proposal offered here is that this should be expanded and increased in scope.
“Toi Ohomai now trains at the Basic Machine Operation level (level 3) and the time appears right to expand that capacity nationally. Both in numbers and in the certificates offered.”
Mr Field envisages training institutions like Toi Ohomai adopting similar schemes around New Zealand, offering new entrants into forestry basic education and Level 1 NZ certificates that would include experience on simulators and possibly machines, if available in their areas. Their courses would also provide training for existing forestry workers up to more advanced stages.
Part of the concept is based on setting up Training Crews that would provide the practical experience and on-the-job tuition.
Mr Field says this could be done in one of two ways; place an individual with an existing professional forestry crew where the experienced members would help train them; or
revert to the specialised Training
Toi Ohomai has purchased this Caterpillar 324DL, with assistance from PF Olsen, to provide practical training for students.