Forestry apprentice Neihana Brewer is a man of few words, preferring to leave it up to others to speak of his attributes, including Graeme Benge, his employer at Fast Harvesting in Tokoroa. Graeme says the 21-year-old is an example of a future forester passionate about the industry.
“Neihana understands that by being adaptable and taking all opportunities that come his way, he shows he has what it takes to be a leader amongst his peers. He’s a valued member of the Fast Harvesting team because he is a good listener, a quick learner and has a positive attitude that has made him respected by his crew.”
Fast Harvesting has 55 staff and six apprentices on its books. Neihana is one of those learners, already a highly skilled machine operator and currently on track to complete his apprenticeship in Forest Harvesting Operations (Manual Tree Faller) (Level 4) qualification this year.
“Earning and learning while gaining experience and qualifications is invaluable, and people don’t end up with debt to repay at the end of their study,” says Graeme. “The opportunity to complete a forestry apprenticeship gives people a sense of achievement, pride and ownership. They’re the future of one of New Zealand’s primary industries.
“Apprenticeships add value to our business as any person at any age can achieve a higher level of education and qualification and have a feeling of self-worth.”
The whānau has certainly played a significant role in Neihana’s career choice. His father worked in forestry, so Neihana “knew a bit”— and his uncle (Cuz Brown), a well-known Competenz Te Pūkenga assessor and career logger in his own right, also encouraged him to look at forestry as a career. “It made it easy, and I also have a couple of good mentors inside and outside the company. Forestry is a good career. Being outside and the tree-felling side of things is the best job. It keeps you young and fit! Fast Harvesting is a good company – everything is done right to keep us safe.”
Competenz Te Pūkenga training advisor Jan Nikora describes Neihana as very mature and willing to learn. “He’s not afraid to ask for help and has a good support system around him within the crew. They allow him to do his assessments during work hours. He has integrated assessments and daily work training note-taking for maximum time management and gets paid for it — can’t get better than that, he reckons!”
Quarterly visits by Jan ensure Neihana is keeping on track and progressing with his training plan. Jan is proud of her relationship with the people at Fast Harvesting.“It’s these relationships that help support Neihana on his learning journey. I’m so privileged to watch these apprentices mature and transform over the time we work together. Neihana has embraced the journey to becoming a well-respected, professional forestry worker.”
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