27 March 2018
New “fees-free” forestry apprenticeships offer flexibility
New apprenticeship programmes will give forestry workers the flexibility they need to succeed – and apprentices could qualify for two years of funding under the government’s new “fees free” scheme.
Industry training organisation Competenz has launched two forest harvesting apprenticeships – one in manual operations and one in mechanised operations.
They have been designed with extensive input from Forest Industry Contractors Association (FICA) members, logging contractors and forestry managers, and to ensure they are modern and practical.
Competenz chief executive Fiona Kingsford says: “We surveyed FICA members in November 2016 to gauge feedback on the need for apprenticeships, and the ideal programme content and duration.
“The survey confirmed that yes, the industry wanted an apprenticeship programme, the ideal duration was two to three years, and a mix of skill sets across operations and levels were required.”
With mechanisation increasing, a specific apprenticeship has been developed that ensures apprentices gain key entry-level skills and knowledge before advancing to operation of mechanised processors and harvesters. It also allows for people completing the basic machine operations programme through a provider to start an apprenticeship when they are employed.
Kingsford says forest harvesting apprenticeships offered in the past have been challenging to finish on time given the unique work environment.
“Apprentices change roles within crews or move between crews a lot which means their roles and responsibilities change. We found a lot of them were having to pull out half-way through their training because they couldn’t complete their qualifications.
“But these new programmes are flexible and our industry partners agree they are fit for purpose.”
On-the-job training without the fees
The government has made it more affordable for employers to train people on-the-job with two years fees-free industry training through Competenz.
This means the costs usually paid by employers, apprentices and trainees in the first two years will now be free for some people. Apprentices can check their eligibility at www.feesfree.govt.nz before signing a training agreement.
The policy came into effect on 1 January 2018 and Competenz is already signing up people who qualify for funding.
“There’s no better time to take on an apprentice,” Kingsford says. “For people already working in the industry who haven't completed tertiary training before, it's an opportunity to start getting qualified at no cost.
“Your workers will grow their skills and knowledge and gain NZQA-recognised qualifications while learning on-the-job.”
Skilled workforce critical for success
A qualified workforce leads to greater efficiency, safety, productivity and profitability, Kingsford says. And it’s vital to meet the government’s growth targets.
“There’s a lot of focus right now on the future of forestry – the goal to plant a billion trees, and the investment through the Provincial Growth Fund.
“At Competenz our job is to support your workers to make sure they have the skills and knowledge to work safely and that they’re gaining the qualifications they need for a successful forestry career.”
Infometrics data shows that 11,011 people were employed in the forestry sector in 2017 and 4,339 more will be needed by 2022 to replace workers who retire or leave.
“Nearly 65% of the forestry workforce has no post-school qualification, but we would like to see that number reduce,” Kingsford says. “Training and education are essential if the sector is becoming more mechanised and moving into to a period of rapid growth.”
More than apprenticeships
As well as apprenticeships, Competenz offers a range of other qualifications and smaller packages of learning. Some programmes can take 12 months or more to complete while other more specific programmes take just four months.
“A Competenz account manager can help you work out the best route and choices for each worker and your business as a whole,” Kingsford says. “We also offer programmes such as health and safety, business administration and leadership.
“We’re here to help businesses who want to grow their workforce and upskill their people, and it’s a great time to find out how we can help.”
To find out more about forest harvesting apprenticeships, call the Competenz Customer Services team on 0800 526 1800.