01 October 2015
Getting the best from a forestry apprenticeship
New Zealand’s forests offer some of the country’s most scenic workplaces and a training ground which provides unique challenges. However, as the experience of Nelson-based Mechanised Cable Harvesting shows, careful recruitment and opportunities for trainees to master a range of work, take on increasing responsibility, and build a career are as important in our forests as they are in engineering workshops, printshops and bakehouses across the country.
“When we’re recruiting, we look for people who have a good attitude and want to learn. They’re easy to train,” says director Nathan Taylor. “Plus forestry is becoming more mechanised and the training reflects that. So we recruit people who are comfortable with technology.”
The company structures employees’ work programmes to offer variety and responsibility.
“Our trainees learn most when they find their work interesting and challenging – so we give them plenty of opportunities to build a range of skills.”
Formal job rotation is one way the company does this. Informal opportunities work well too.
“We encourage trainees to get familiar with equipment like the hauler when there’s less production pressure,” says Nathan. “And we make them responsible for looking after machinery like the Warratah [harvester]. Being given ‘ownership’ and responsibility for something is motivating.”
Nathan agrees that trainees and apprentices benefit from a good start to their training.
“The early months are critical. We start trainees on the basics to build their confidence. They learn about tools and how to use them, and take responsibility for entry-level tasks like quality control.”
On-the-job support is important throughout a training programme. Nathan encourages his trainees to ask questions – plenty of questions. “I tell them there’s no such thing as a dumb question.”
Opportunities for career development help keep trainees with the company.
“If trainees are willing to get stuck in, there are lots of opportunities, including further training. One of our trainees, Sam, is doing his level 3 health and safety training. And he runs our tailgate meetings where we review the past day’s hazards and plan for the day ahead. So he’s building up some real expertise in this area.”
Nathan himself has completed further training, including National Certificates in health and safety and first line management.
Photo: Trainee Sam Dixon with director Nathan Taylor