A jump in demand for forestry workers able to safely operate mechanised harvesting equipment has led to the creation of New Zealand’s first entry-level New Zealand Certificate in Forest Harvesting (Basic Machine Operations) programme.
The first cohort of students is using state-of-the art forest simulators and actual forestry machines to practice their skills, as part of the 12-week qualification at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology’s Rotorua campus.
The drive to boost productivity and safety standards in forestry has led to a big increase in logs being harvested by machines, said Forest Industry Safety Council National Safety Director Fiona Ewing.
“Mechanised harvesting now accounts for more than half of all operations compared to less than a quarter in 2009. That’s a big jump in a relatively short time and it’s creating demand for trained operators.”
Mechanised harvesting has contributed to a 50 per cent drop in serious harm accidents in forestry between 2013 and 2015.
The Basic Machine Operations programme covers essential basics such as health and safety in forestry, and then focusses on training to safely operate, maintain and use forestry machinery.
The programme was developed to respond to the changing needs of industry. The use of forest machinery is set to increase further over the next ten years and dominate the way forest harvesting operations are conducted.
With a strong focus on practical skills and most ‘class time’ spent learning to operate forestry machines, students of the inaugural intake at Toi Ohomai say the simulators are highly beneficial, allowing them to train in life-like situations without the pressures of an actual worksite.
One student, Damian Cornwall, 34, said mastering their machine operating skills on the simulators means when they reach the work site they’re already sharp and ready to work.
“We went up to a forestry site and jumped on the real thing and we already knew where everything was and what they did. That helped big time”.
“If we had gone out there without being on the simulators first we would have been stunned mullets, just sitting there going, ‘What’s this button, what’s that button?’ When we are on the simulators we don’t even look at the buttons because we already know where they are. We don’t look like idiots in front of the logging crew when using their million-dollar machines.”
Damian also said he liked the fact that the course focuses strongly on practical skills, with the vast majority of the time spent learning to operate the forestry machines.
Enrolments for the next course, which starts in January 2017, are open now.
Press Release Partners: Forestry Industry Safety Council and Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology