Balclutha forestry school is growing great graduates

November 15, 2020

An exciting partnership between forestry training partners is growing great graduates in Balclutha.

Industry Training Organisation (ITO) Competenz joined forces with local Otago business Mike Hurring Logging and Contracting in March to launch a trial training programme, to increase the number of skilled and qualified apprentices in the forestry sector.

The course is structured into five one-week block courses spread over a year and includes the use of harvesting simulators and harvesting machinery – the first of its kind in New Zealand. The trial covers delivery of the basic machine operations component of a forestry apprenticeship, utilising Mike Hurring’s recently established private training school in Balclutha. The school provides a classroom-style learning opportunity which is great for the theory components of the programme.

Learners will complete the remaining practical training and assessment of their apprenticeships at their own workplaces, with ongoing support from Competenz and Mike Hurring Logging and Contracting.

Competenz CEO Fiona Kingsford is enthusiastic about this new and exciting training delivery option.

“The use of simulators to deliver training to apprentices is a bold and inspiring solution and exactly the sort of innovation New Zealand’s forestry sector needs. We applaud Mike Hurrings’ forward-thinking and are excited at the results so far”.

Despite COVID-19 curveballs, three groups consisting of eight apprentices each have been selected to go through the trial to complete mechanised harvesting training. Cohort 1 has successfully completed three block courses already, Cohort 2 has completed one block course, with the third cohort to commence in February 2021.

Mr Hurring said the tightening of health and safety regulations in recent years meant training in the use of large machinery was essential.

‘‘We want to keep people as far away from any danger as possible... You hardly ever see guys just using chainsaws anymore,’’ he said. ‘‘Here they can learn to use large-scale equipment. ‘‘We want it to be hands-on ... not just standing around being talked at.’’ Mr Hurring said.

A project team of forest managers, contractors, trainers/assessors, Ministry of Primary Industries and Competenz staff are overseeing the success of the trial, including assessing factors like cost of delivery, and efficiency of training off-job versus the traditional on-job method.

The project has received $450,000 in funding to sustain it for three years, as part of MPI’s One Billion Trees fund, with an additional $600,000 invested by Mike Hurring Logging and Contracting.