IT WAS GREAT TO SEE CONTRACTORS AND FOREST OWNERS GETTING together last month to thrash out ideas on how to improve the training of young recruits and existing workers on modern complex machinery, as covered in this issue of NZ Logger.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.
The idea of bringing back the Training Crew concept and ramping up technology tuition is very worthy, and it certainly answers a need. Contractors are far too busy and their resources stretched to the point where it is difficult for them to effectively provide this sort of training within their crew structures these days.
It is going to take time and a fair amount of investment to establish a network that enables contractors throughout the country to tap into the proposed training resources, and it deserves all our support.
However, it doesn’t solve the issue of selling forestry as an attractive employment option to young people (and even older ones) who might never have considered it in the past.
We desperately need a coordinated and fully funded recruitment programme built around an ongoing marketing strategy/awareness campaign to sell forestry as a rewarding career path for motivated recruits. We don’t just want bums on seats, we want people with brains and a desire to do a good job and get ahead.
We’re not alone, of course. Other industries are finding it difficult to recruit people: ie truck drivers, builders, engineers, teachers, nurses et al. And in many respects, we’re fishing in the same talent pool.
We need to establish a point of difference and inject some excitement into the idea of working in the forest with really cool technology and in an industry that can provide New Zealand – and the world – with advanced products that will answer many of our future requirements.
How do we go about that?
This is an issue that should be driven by the industry as a whole. We don’t only have shortages in harvesting and silviculture crews, but also in forest management, forest engineering, saw-milling, wood processing, transport and logistics. It’s widespread.
The role is something that would fit with WoodCo, the pan-industry body made up from organisations that represent most of those working in forestry.
WoodCo has funded promotional campaigns to benefit the whole industry in the past, but what is required is more than just billboards and adverts. We need a programme that draws on a wide variety of resources and coordinates activities around the country at a regional level, as well as a national one.
It can’t be a one-off. It has to be formulated to work over a number of years, because it is going to take a long time to gain traction and get results.
If we don’t do something to boost the number and quality of people coming into forestry, we face a long and continuing decline in the workforce. That’s not an acceptable option.