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Women in forestry

Among the trees . . . and loving it.

An Eastland Wood Council forestry training programme aimed at keeping pace with the demand for forestry workers has had an unexpected boon — boosting diversity in a traditionally male-dominated industry. The Gisborne Herald takes a deeper look at the benefits of the EWC Generation programme with programme manager Siobhain Fyall and some of the women who have successfully graduated.

“When we started the Generation Programme two years ago, we knew there was a demand in the forest industry for trained, work ready, and reliable workers,” EWC Generation Programme manager Siobhain Fyall said.

“Our first Generation back in October 2018 was highly successful, with 11 trainees gaining full-time sustainable employment, eight in forestry.

“What did surprise us was the interest in the programme from females.

“We had four keen young women enrolled on the programme with three gaining full-time employment on completion of the six-week base camp. Their commitment, participation and engagement was on par with the males on the programme. So far we have placed seven females into full-time sustainable employment in the forest industry. From our six programme intakes, we have had 17 females completing the course.”

Katelynn Hauiti was one of those.

“She has always wanted to work in the industry and started her training when she was at Tolaga Bay Area School, travelling to Gisborne at 5am twice weekly to do the Gateway Programme at the Turanga Ararau Forestry Campus,” Siobhain said.

“On leaving school, she signed up on the first Generation Programme, and has been working as a QC (Quality Control). Late in 2019 she went back to her old school to give a talk to the students about her experience and what it was like to work in the industry.

“Katelynn, our poster girl for our 2019/2020 Generation Programme brochure, has now completed the National Certificate in Forest Operations with strands in Quality Control Level 3.”

Another graduate was Caitlin Markie.

“When she left school she was unsure what she wanted to do,” said Siobhain.

“After a brief stint working she decided to give forestry a go. She has a brother working in the industry along with some friends, saw the advert for the second Generation Programme intake and signed up.

“Caitlin never missed a day of training — she was always the first to arrive at training and last to leave. The only thing she struggled with was getting her chainsaw started but with pure perseverance, she cracked it.

“She is now working with Wild Hog Logging as a QC and in Health and Safety. She has also completed the National Certificate in Forest Operations with strands in Quality Control Level 3.

Mere Simpson was another trainee from the second Generation.

“She was working night shifts at a seasonal job at the time but continued to attend both the course and work for a few weeks until it all got too much. She left her job as she decided forestry was what she wanted to do. Mere would turn up daily to training with a great attitude and full of enthusiasm. She had a lot of challenges to overcome but with her can-do attitude, she is now part of the forestry workforce and working full time for Kuru Contracting. Mere has completed the National Certificate in Forest Operations with strands in Quality Control Level 3.”

Not worried about working in a traditionally male-dominated industry

Mere said the “auntie and uncles (staff)” at the GP went above her expectations and got her through the anxiety of starting fresh in the industry.

“Most importantly they took me under their wing as my mental health was on the rocks too at the time. It’s been a solid year in the bush and I wouldn’t know where I would’ve ended up without them at work, at home and in my bank account.

“Since I left school I’ve always kind of worked in more male dominated jobs anyway, but I knew this particular industry had potential to get pretty rough but despite my low confidence at the start and possibly having to get used to all the old school grumps, we got there and not going to stop.”

Awhina Paul jumped on to the fourth Generation as a quiet young woman with a goal to get a job in forestry. Early on she was unsure which aspect of the industry she wanted to pursue, but after numerous site visits she locked in forest mensuration — the measurement of trees and stands, and the analysis of the information.

“With funding from Tu Uru Rakau we were able to purchase some invaluable plotting equipment which enabled Awhina to gain the skills in the use of the technology and qualifications, to do the job,” said Siobhian.

Awhina is now fully employed with Isaac Forest Inventory and loving it. She has also completed the National Certificate in Forest Operations with strands in Forest Mensuration Level 3.

Enrolments for Generation number seven which started on October 5 attracted a lot of interest with four young women signed up. Last-minute accommodation issues meant two could not continue which Siobahn said they were very sorry about. The course has a full complement of 11.

Awhina said graduating from the programme had helped her with having confidence, knowledge and skills that had helped her to gain a better understanding of the forest industry and get a job.

She does not mind working in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

“I don’t really mind it, I feel supported from my tutors as well as at work and I’ll just see where my journey takes me,” Awhina said.

The Generation Programme starts with a comprehensive six-week base camp that gives graduates a “real world” learning experience combining industry training, work experience leading directly into employment. They are introduced to a range of employment opportunities in the forest industry, from silviculture, harvesting and technology through to plotting, roading and transport, logistics and wood processing. The industry offers a wide range of career pathways with everyone having the opportunity to gain further skills, experience, and follow a path into management if they wish.

The training gives them a better understanding of the industry, allowing them to make informed decisions as to where they want to work within the forestry industry. They are enrolled in the New Zealand Certificate in Forest Operations level 3 which is completed on-site and in the workplace.

During the six weeks they focus on industry specific skills using a variety of training resources. A Waratah training simulator is on site, as well as top of the range plotting equipment and technology, along with experienced tutors to deliver the training. “We keep up with the demands of industry in terms of utilising technology to not just improve efficiency but to improve health and safety,” said Siobhian.

The students’ day starts at 5.30am with a fitness session, which is designed to prepare them for the early starts they will have when employed and to maintain a fitness level to be fit for task when working in the industry.

They also complete drug and alcohol education, a Safetree team building programme, Work Place First Aid, Wheels tracks and rollers, ATV training and driver licences. The programme has evolved over each cohort to ensure that the training provides the skills and qualifications that contractors and employers need.

“The Generation Programme not only places our graduates into jobs, we also support them through this transition and beyond, with a robust pastoral care support system for up to two years into employment,” Siobhain said.

“The focus is about growing the people, so we encourage them and their employers to invest in further training and qualifications such as apprenticeships and traineeships.”

POSTER GIRL: Katelynn Hauiti started her forestry study while still at school. Pictures supplied
GOOD ATTITUDE: Mere Simpson overcame challenges with a can-do approach and is now working full-time.
SUPPORTED: EWC Generation graduate Awhina Paul says the programme gave her confidence, knowledge and skills.