Pre-training prepares job seekers for forestry work

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Nathan Fogden has 2,000 hectares of land to plant and prune in 2022 but not the staff to complete the work. “It’s a really competitive labour market these days,” says the managing director of Te Puke-based silviculture contractors, Inta-Wood Forestry. “When I started working in NZ forestry 30 years ago, tradespeople were leaving to work in the silviculture sector. Nowadays they often earn $30 an hour and I can’t guarantee that.”

The labour market situation is not helped he says by inexperienced contractors under-pricing. Nathan currently pays his staff the minimum adult wage of $20 an hour to start with, including travel time and breaks, with bonuses paid at 6 and 12 months for those who pass monthly drug testing.

With training and experience, that rate increases to $26.50 with production. He also pays for work clothing and equipment. “We are working to become a living wage employer in March, with that rate increasing to a target of $30.00 an hour with production.”

Nathan’s company was the only forestry company to attend the latest Limited Services Volunteer LSV) career expo held at Trentham, Hutt Valley, on 23 November. Funded by MSD, LSV is a voluntary and free six-week training course run by New Zealand Defence Force for job seekers. Nathan says those undertaking the course are attentive, have self-respect and are drug-free.

“I look for people who are fit and are team people with a drive to do better.” New recruits will still need to work for up to four months on the job perfecting planting before they reach the optimal planting rate of 600-700 trees every day.

As a result of giving a presentation and hosting a stand at LSV, his company received a number of expressions of interest from jobseekers. While in the end no one was employed as a result, his company will continue to attend LSV graduations where participants come from the Bay of Plenty and finding local accommodation is not an issue.

Inta-Wood Forestry’s clients include a range of well-known forestry businesses and private landowners. Nathan employs an experienced forester who gives additional forestry planning advice. But it’s hard work and not to everyone’s liking. Nathan always wanted to be a forestry contractor and he is now concerned that his experienced crew supervisors don’t want to follow his path because of the long hours and stress involved in this competitive, demanding environment.

“I love establishing new forests for clients, and many staff get that satisfaction too. They see some beautiful scenery and work all day outdoors. I’m humbled to be able to employ people. There’s a steady flow of work; silviculture doesn’t get turned on and off like harvesting does.”

Nathan is a recently-retired member of the Forestry and Wood Processing Workforce Council, whose work is supported by Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service. The Council has been set-up to oversee an action plan to make good workforce decisions, attract a larger more diverse workforce, ensure people have the right skills and knowledge, and that workplaces have good practices and work conditions.

The next LSV training courses finish in Christchurch on 12 March, in Auckland on 30 April and in Wellington on 21 May 2022.

Further information: interested employers can visit Hire an LSV graduate.

Photo: (From left) Inta-Wood Forestry MD Nathan Fogden, Central North Island Wood Council CEO/Generation Programme Manager Damita Mita and Inta-Wood Forestry operations manager Raumati Morgan at the Limited Services Volunteer career expo

Source: Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service