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Bridging the gap in our forestry industry

 

New Zealand’s contribution to the world’s supply of industrial wood may be relatively small, but across Asia-Pacific markets our timber accounts for almost 10 percent of all forest products. This makes it one of our most significant industries.

In fact, commercial forestry is the third-largest export earner in New Zealand, generating an annual gross income of around $5 billion, and despite a period of slow economic and labour market growth, wood production volumes are on the rise. As the forests planted in recent decades begin to reach maturity, the need for skilled workers to meet these growing demands is rapidly expanding.  

Most forestry work occurs in remote areas of New Zealand, and even though it’s a well-paid industry, providing multiple opportunities for development and growth, vacancies can be hard to fill due to the physical nature and isolation of the work.

The urgent need to assist with this obvious skills shortage was identified by the government a few years ago, in addition to the need to grow and retain employment opportunities. Through collaboration with the Forestry Industry Training and Education Council (FITEC), and contractors such as D G Glenn, Work and Income set up a new initiative last year designed to directly increase the number of qualified forestry workers. The programme includes eight weeks of pre-employment training assistance, including a minimum of 75 percent practical and on-the-job work experience. Newly-skilled workers are then helped with securing employment with contractors, and offered in-work support once employed with a view to gaining industry-recognised qualifications. Such training means participants are productive from their first day on the job. For employers, this means a more valuable workforce, and for trainees it provides long-term career opportunities.

To date, the initiative has helped more than 70 new workers gain sustainable employment in one of New Zealand’s primary industries. And that’s just one sector. Work and Income operates throughout New Zealand to bridge supply and demand by matching people into jobs from a wide range of sectors. Responding to what employers want means organisations get a workforce that meets their needs – ultimately leading to a more sustainable workforce in New Zealand.

The success of the forestry industry training and support programme means the model is now being trialled across other industries throughout New Zealand.

The innovative services of Work and Income have earned it a place in the government category of the 2012 AUT Excellence in Business Support Awards (run by AUT Business School, and of which Idealog is a sponsor). The winners will be announced at a gala dinner at The Langham Hotel on November 7.  For the latest updates, follow @AUTuni#AUTAwards. To learn more about Work and Income, visit workandincome.govt.nz


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