Barry Wells, Harvest Operations Manager, Port Blakely- Timaru
We have several apprentices within our six crews and it's a great way to fast track learning, with the foundations being built on site and then getting together to do the group learning in a classroom. We believe that the trainees get the benefit of this networking. As a forest company we cover the costs of the trainers to be in our crews and crews carry the cost of having the people out of production. About ten years ago things weren't working that well with training and so we took it upon ourselves to sort things out in-house. We have found that higher skill levels and a stable place to work results in low turnover within the crews, however turnover does not seem to be as much as a challenge in the South Island as it is in the North Island. Currently our crews have most of their workers either under training or fully trained for task, but we still want to keep people in the habit of learning so have training plans in place for them all, even those experienced employees. There are higher level courses available through Competenz to meet these needs. We have also had two apprentices win the Southern Wood Council Apprentice Award which was a great achievement. In our region there are few crews close at hand, it's a smaller industry and employers tend to look after their guys well, so employees stay loyal to their crews. We are very keen to still see young people coming into the industry and like to develop people from the ground up. We have recently had two high school students start work in our crews who were part of the Trade Academy scheme in their high schools, so it is good to see that pathway working well also. We like to work with a few local high schools around the region and promote forestry and the career opportunities that are available.
Blake Speirs, Speirs logging- Gisborne
Training is important to us in the workplace and we are doing so much in that space but times are changing and with mechanisation, drones and not having people on the slopes the emphasis is on technology. Guys need basic training but when they step into an enclosed cab and operate machines all day the focus for training should be on that specific task. Apprenticeships are just that - applying learning on the job and over the years we have trained up several employees. They come without any bad habits, you are able to train them around your company environment and the contractor can shape to fit into their work policies and practises. While training on the job they get paid but the hardest thing is to find youth with a good attitude. The industry is being more professional than it ever was and providing better opportunities to learn in a safer environment but parents are heavily influenced around what they see in the media. How do you improve that public messaging?
I have had a couple of my staff under the apprenticeship programme and one is now operating the skidder and the chap operating the main loader is still going through. Competenz have been great, we are seeing a lot of trainers and this makes it more effective to train on site but we know that comes with a cost to our ITO. Training bears a lot around health & safety and this is a huge priority. Training provides our people the tools to make good decisions and while paper work and policies are in place, these are only measurement tools. Our concentration should be on removing and reducing any risks before they happen.
Mike Hurring, Mike Hurring logging & Contractors- Balclutha
Training comes with a cost and often a question of who pays for it but I have to say some of the forest owners who are supporting training financially are reaping the benefits. The mindset of the crews is important, they need to want to learn. Competenz work hard with contractors to get training happening to how the industry want and they have managed and supported us with the 5 x one-week courses and with placements with contractors. We need the right people, people who want to work in the industry, but we need to make sure we are operating a good credible industry. For an industry that offers the third largest GDP for the country, we don't do a very good job at promoting our industry. Full time trainers, as we have (paid for by assessments) is what the industry needs and I also have spent a lot of money on simulators and facilities, but its been great to see them being used and integrated into the early stages of learning. It's about learning at "grass roots" and once that is done, contractors are prepared to take on apprentices and we take the 5 week course and roll it out over 10 months. The process of finishing a unit standard before you go onto the next one is around DKO "demonstrate knowledge of" and then doing the practical training. The apprentice will be working towards achieving National Certificate L3 after the 10 months. Following the 10 months of centralised training, apprentices who pass the course will come out with two level 3 qualifications, basic machine operator and manual processing. It has been a matter of getting on with it and doing it ourselves. Even I don't stop learning as a few of us head up to Finland soon to a conference based on training through one of their universities.
Paul Fleming, PD Fleming logging- Taranaki
I got into forestry 5 years ago, having been a dairy farmer, gone out as a fencing contractor and then stumbled across the opportunity to get into harvesting of woodlot blocks. I had a contract to harvest a woodlot put in front of me and I have continued ever since with plenty of work for several years ahead of me. Interestingly though it was after a Worksafe rep saw my loader and came to inspect the work site and business, that I realised the need for training. I did pass with flying colours on the H & S side of the business but fell short of the PD for my staff. I immediately got involved with Competenz and their apprenticeship programme and I have not looked back. I have one crew and that varies from 3-4 people and currently I have two employees on scheme. The first chap has been on the scheme for 20 months and is progressing really well with faller-processing units and the other has been with me for 3 months but working steadily through the qualifications. The downside is after investing in employees and training them up to national certificates over 3-4 years that they can move on to other jobs. But you just have to look at it positively knowing that your business did benefit from your investment in them while they were employed by you. And secondly that you have sent a qualified person out into the industry and if all crews were on board we would all have a lot more qualified people to employ. Although it costs to train up crew members, you know that they are capable and that only reduces my risks. The good thing about the apprenticeship scheme is that they are trained within your own culture, your own parameters and your way. I have great relations with Worksafe, they see that I have invested in training and care for my employees. I focus on woodlots around Taranaki and do promote to other small contractors the need to engage training so that the work environment is safe. Farmers of these woodlots need to support the regulations around entry on site and be leaders to the public. Honesty, pride and credibility go a long way in this industry and training reinforces this.