Competenz Forestry Team: Growing the next generation of forestry professionals

January 25, 2021

The Competenz forestry team are an experienced and enthusiastic bunch – collectively, they have more than 100 years of time spent in the forestry industry – and they love it!

Working with great people in magical locations is a big part of the attraction, according to the eight account managers who split their time between nationwide Competenz offices and visiting crews in forests throughout New Zealand. While the forestry crews they visit do hard mahi in all weather, often in rugged countryside and tough conditions, the team also enjoys the occasional opportunity to hang out with them on the top of a “majestic mountain range on a misty morning at sunrise”.

Forestry Account Manager Carl Priddle joined Competenz 18 months ago, after 15 years as a forestry contractor. He describes his role as a “training consultant who builds positive relationships between forestry stakeholders like WorkSafe, forest companies, contractors, assessors and trainers” throughout the lower North Island. Outside of work, Carl and his wife are busy with their eight children and a mission to visit every lighthouse in New Zealand. So far, they have notched up visits to seven of the 25 lighthouses.

Carl and the team sign learners into Competenz qualifications and tailor training plans to the specific needs of forestry apprentices and trainees, supporting them to upskill and achieve qualifications with regular visits and pastoral care. Alongside industry, they also help create and review qualifications with the Competenz Learning Design and Innovation team.

Steven Jones says being a Competenz Account Manager in Gisborne is his “dream job at this stage in my life”. After 30 years as a forestry contractor and ten years as a forestry assessor he relishes the opportunity to “arrange training programmes to improve forestry workers’ skill levels and make their workplace a safer environment by increasing their knowledge about forestry”.

Jan Nikora, one of two female account managers on the team, started out as a forestry administrator in Rotorua 14 years ago with FITEC, prior to that organisation’s amalgamation with Competenz. She enjoys the chance to show the men and women on the ground that forestry is a genuine professional trade.

“Some don’t realise the importance of what they do because of the stereotype associated with the industry, others can be embarrassed if they are struggle with reading and writing, but I get to encourage them to give learning a go, which is priceless,” says Jan.

“I tell them, if they can get through a winter out there, then they were made to be there! Keep learning from everyone, because you don’t always have to be a worker – you can be a boss if you’re willing to do the mahi.”

Senior Account Manager Cliff Stoddart hits the road between 4am and 5am on the days he visits crews in the forest. “During warmer months, logging crews start earlier, so I like to be onsite when they start. It is the one time of the day when everyone in the crew is at the same location,” say Cliff.

Cliff’s phone is always on for clients and assessors at the other end of the day too, as most make contact during the evening when they come in from the forest. Amongst the busyness of his current role, the uncomplicated nature of his former forestry life on the tools is certainly not forgotten.

“All I had to remember in those days was to grab a new chain or some oil for the chainsaw on the way home, life was a lot simpler then,” he laughs. “My whole working career has been forestry. It has fed, clothed and put a roof over my family’s head. I am hugely passionate about our industry and greatly respect those out there every day doing the hard yards in all conditions.”

Qualification review update

During 2020, the forestry team has been busy consulting with industry to update the forestry qualifications and unit standards Competenz offers. New versions of qualifications and units have been registered with NZQA and we are currently completing work on updating all of the training and assessment resources. Keep an eye out for our new programmes being released early in 2021.

Free apprenticeships and traineeships

There’s never been a better time to train the forestry workforce! With free fees on all apprenticeships and targeted traineeships, as well as Apprenticeship Boost wage subsidies, employers are being given a golden opportunity to address skills shortages.

Find out more about free fees and wage subsidies available now.

Meet our forestry team
Pictured front row L to R:  Mark Preece, Sector Manager Forestry; Jan Nikora, Account Manager Central North Island; Christine Ewart, National Manager; Sarah Cameron-Koh, Team co-ordinator; Hannah Unsworth, Account Manager Northland.
Pictured back row L to R: Hamish Gunn, Contract Account Manager Central North Island; Steven Jones, Account Manager Gisborne; Carl Priddle, Account Manager Southern North Island; Phil Williams, Account Manager Southern South Island; Tom Snodgrass, Account Manager Northern South Island.
Not pictured: Tere Vickeridge, Account Manager Central North Island; Cliff Stoddart, Senior Account Manager, Hawkes Bay.