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Out of forestry school and straight into work

Ready, willing and able.

The ManaiaSAFE Forestry School has finished its third 20-week training programme delivered in partnership with Eastern Institute of Technology.

Those who successfully complete the programme will graduate with the NZ Certificate in Forest Harvesting Operations with Strands qualification (Level 3).

“Of the 10 rookie loggers who started the programme in February, nine made it through. Eight are now in full-time logging jobs and one will be progressing into Level 4 training,” programme manager Victor Beach said.

Those in jobs are Maori between the ages of 17 and 28 — five of whom were unemployed at the start of the programme.

Henry Koia, the managing director of Train Me Quality Services Limited which governs the school, was not surprised the graduates were snapped up by local employers.

“Some contractors are reluctant to invest in training someone new to the industry because there is no guarantee of a return on their investment,” said Mr Koia.

“The trainee might not last, or if they do, they could go to a competitor offering a higher wage. Our graduates are in high demand because the investment has already been made into getting them work-ready to NZ certificate standard, so they are productive and know how to do their jobs safely from day one.”

The school employs a practice and delivery model that places emphasis on learning by doing and skills repetition to develop learner competence and confidence.

Mr Koia said the school's point of difference was its innovative training model that has three unique features.

“First, we service a harvesting contract with Ernslaw One Limited in order to provide our trainees with an authentic, real-world, hands-on learning experience before they set foot in a full-scale production environment.

“Second, we employ experienced forestry professionals who are specialists in the technical subjects being taught to provide quality training and mentorship under strict supervision protocols.

“And third, we generate revenue from log production, which helps pay for the training and keeps our people in jobs.”

Without the commitment of Te Uru Rakau/Foresty NZ and funding support through the Government's One Billion Trees (1BT) programme, the school would not have survived the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, said Mr Koia.

The company was forced to downsize from three crews to one crew, which reduced its workforce from 36 to 22 FTEs (fulltime eqivalent employees).

“You have to remember that we are a training provider that logs, not a logging contractor that trains, and so we have an academic management business function that cannot be resourced from one training crew alone.

“1BT funding has helped us stay in the game and gives us a chance to recover and rebuild so that we will be here to help other forestry contractors rebuild.”

ManaiaSAFE executive director and business performance manager Steve Beach believes the school has a key role to play in the region's economic recovery.

“We are moving young unemployed Maori into jobs in an industry that will still be going strong in 30 years,” he said.

“We are also helping to address the forestry skills shortage which has plagued the region for decades before Covid-19 came along.

“Our dream is to build a forestry centre of excellence and wellbeing based in Gisborne that has a forest-based training facility, with a live-in hostel located close to our harvesting crews.

“This means that young people who are geographically isolated will have a safe place to live while they learn, and on graduation, they can return home to work.”

PASSING ON THE KNOWLEDGE: with over 23 years logging experience under his belt, ManaiaSAFE Forestry School person in charge of operations and mentor Tene Hicks (Ngati Porou, Te Whanau-a-Apanui) teaches 18-year-old Zenith Swann-Campbell (Ngati Porou) good log making technique. Zenith recently graduated with a Level 3 NZ Certificate in Forest Harvesting Operations with Strands qualification and is now working as a breaker out. Looking on from a safe distance is 21-year-old graduate Dion Robin (Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki), who was the school's first trainee to complete 20 weeks of training with a 100 percent attendance rate. Dion is now employed as a skid worker. Pictures supplied
KEEN ON A FORESTRY CAREER: Poised to start their 20-week learning journey are the rookie loggers of ManaiaSAFE Forestry School's fourth cohort. From left are Nikita Noanoa (Ngati Porou), Shem-Paul Laga'aia (Ngati Kahungunu), Xanthe Beach (Ngati Rangitihi), Falken Taiapa (Ngati Porou, Te Aupouri), Aaron McKay (Ngati Porou), and Tyrell Hicks (Ngati Porou).