Funding to increase forestry workforce in Otago

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Forestry’s future workforce has received a boost through a partnership between the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and an Otago secondary school. MPI funded a two-week silviculture course for students at Milton’s Tokomairiro High School to support them going into employment or enrolling in the school’s one-year forestry training course called Tokomairiro Training.

“The new taster course, which was funded in December 2021, was set up to get students thinking about a career in forestry,” says Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service’s Manager – Skills, Training & Workplace Safety, Marion Schrama. “They were able to learn some basic skills, gain NCEA credits, and understand what is required for working in silviculture. The standards assessed for the course were all pre-requisites to joining the industry.

“The students also have the potential of enrolling for the full Tokomairiro Training course. Whether they choose to enrol in the course or work in the sector, they learn about health and safety, chainsaw use and maintenance, and pruning which are essential in silviculture and forestry.”

Otago/Southland is the second-largest wood supply area in New Zealand and there is a shortage of young people choosing forestry as a career path. Marion Schrama says companies are calling out for more workers to meet the demands in both silviculture and harvesting.

“Forestry as a whole will benefit from the young people developing an interest in the sector. By partnering with the school, we can inspire young people and their whanau to view forestry as a career path full of opportunity, in particular year 12 and 13 school students, and those at risk of leaving school without any immediate future career plans.”

Tokomairiro Training programme manager Lynda Allan says the two-week taster course provided a valuable insight into a potential career in forestry. “Feedback from our first taster programme was extremely positive and everyone who took part gained skills they can use to further their employment opportunities. Seventy-five percent of students in the programme are planning on completing further training in forestry, and we are anticipating a number of them are going to enrol in our year-long programme”.

Tokomairiro Training is a unit under the umbrella of Tokomairiro High School. The unit offers a year-long programme where secondary school students spend two days each week in the Forestry Pathways Training course. Both the one-year and the MPI funded taster course gives the participants credits towards NCEA qualifications, promotes forestry as a career, and provides skills for future employment in the sector.