Forestry companies in the Bay of Plenty region could benefit from new apprenticeship programmes designed to upskill their workers ahead of predicted industry growth.

Industry training organisation Competenz has launched two forest harvesting apprenticeships – one in manual operations and one in mechanised operations.

These apprenticeship programmes come at a time the forestry sector is poised for growth following the government’s pledge in January to plant one billion new trees over the next ten years.

With mechanisation increasing, the new apprenticeships will ensure apprentices gain key entry-level skills and knowledge before advancing to operation of mechanised processors and harvesters.

Competenz chief executive Fiona Kingsford says over 11,000 people were employed in the forestry sector in 2017 and 4339 more will be needed by 2022 to replace workers who retire or leave.

“This year alone there is demand for up to 1000 workers nationally and about 500 of those are needed to fill existing roles being vacated by people retiring or changing jobs.

“Our forestry participation data shows the Bay of Plenty region could need another 123 forestry workers this year.”

She says a qualified workforce leads to greater efficiency, safety, productivity and profitability.

“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.  It is vital our workforce is skilled and productive to meet the government’s growth targets.

“Nearly 65 per cent of the forestry workforce has no post-school qualification, but we would like to see that number reduce. Training and education are essential if the sector is becoming more mechanised and moving into to a period of rapid growth.”

Appointed to the Forestry Ministerial Advisory Group this week, Fiona says the new apprenticeships have been designed with extensive input from the forestry sector.

The two apprenticeships fall under the government’s fees free scheme that makes the first two years of industry training free for some people.

“There’s no better time for forestry companies to take on an apprentice,” says Fiona. “For people new to forestry or for those already working in the industry but haven’t completed tertiary training before – this is a real opportunity to start getting qualified at no cost.

“Workers will grow their skills and knowledge and gain NZQA-recognised qualifications while learning on-the-job.”