Balclutha forestry school

Growing skilled graduates

Competenz joined forces with local Otago business Mike Hurring Logging and Contracting in March 2020, launching a trial training programme set to increase the number of skilled and qualified apprentices in the forestry sector.

The programme is structured into five one-week block courses spread over a year and includes the use of harvesting simulators and machinery – the first of its kind in New Zealand. It covers 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 environment which is great for the theory components of the course. Learners will complete the remaining practical training and assessments at their 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 Hurring’s forward-thinking and are excited at the results so far.”

Mike 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.”

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

The trial in its entirety is set to run until early 2022 with the third cohort of eight learners starting in February 2021, taking the total number of enrolled learners to 24. All are progressing well, and some will receive certificates at the Southern Wood Council Awards in May 2021 for the qualifications they have completed so far.

The project 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.

A full qualification launch is scheduled for May 2021. The programme will include a long-awaited silviculture apprenticeship. Also approved are two new micro-credential programmes for chainsaw use which are due to launch in April 2021.