Top Guns in Forest & Wood Industry Named

Thursday 8 September 2011, 9:39AM




The top guns from New Zealand’s forest and wood industry were announced [last night] at the National Training Awards run by FITEC (the forestry and wood industry organisation).

Out of 7,000 trainees, eleven outstanding candidates and companies operating in the country’s multi-billion-dollar industry were recognised at the highest level and awarded at a ceremony held at the Rotorua Energy Events Centre.

The annual awards celebrate the industry’s stars, showcasing the achievements and commitment of candidates and companies to professional development and raising skill levels. The winners were chosen from more than 30 finalists handpicked from within the broader forest and wood manufacturing sector.

“The calibre of these winners is a real testament to the passion and commitment to training enabling the industry to perform year-on-year,” says FITEC Chief Executive Ian Boyd. “The forest and wood industry is New Zealand’s third largest primary industry export earner, employing 20,000 people around the country and contributing to annual earnings throughout the industry sector of around $3.7 billion, and training is essential to our future success.”

In a predominantly male industry, female candidates were awarded two of the top titles in this year’s awards taking out the Modern Apprentice of the Year (Stormy Merritt) and the Trainee of the Year (Rochelle Russell). Twenty year old Stormy Merritt is in charge of a crew of men and works in the bush outside Gisborne. She drives a 20 tonne hauler which is the size of a crane. She says being the youngest in the bush, the only female and managing a crew full of men has its challenges. “I found it hard at the beginning because the guys are a lot older than me and there I was telling them what to do, but we all work with each other well – it’s much easier that way – it makes the day better for everybody.”

Other winners include a young trainee furniture designer from Auckland and a Nelson company that has implemented significant health and safety initiatives including a “courage to intervene” policy, which has drastically reduced their accident rate.

“Our winners represent the cream of the crop,” says Boyd. “They have achieved qualifications while working full time jobs. This is a real challenge but the outcome is great for their careers and for raising skill levels within the industry which has shown to lead directly to increased productivity and greater job satisfaction.”

The 2011 winners were:

Modern Apprentice of the Year (Forestry) – Stormy Merritt, Storm Logging Ltd - winner $1000
Modern Apprentice of the Year (Wood Manufacturing) – Cameron Kirby, Pacific Wood Products Ltd, winner $1000
Trainee of the Year (Forestry) – Daniel Nickerson, Johnson Forestry Services Ltd, winner $1000
Trainee of the Year (Wood Manufacturing) – Rochelle Russell, CHH Woodproducts LVL, winner $1000
Trainee of the Year (Furniture) (furniture piece entry) – Eric Abbot, Danske Mobler, winner $1000
Training Company of the Year (Forestry) – GJ Sole Transport Ltd, $1000 in FITEC training
Training Company of the Year (Wood Manufacturing) – Taranaki Pine, $1000 in FITEC training
Training Company of the Year (Furniture) – Ferndale Furniture Ltd, $1000 in FITEC training
Outstanding Business Performance through People Development – GJ Sole Transport Ltd, $1000 in FITEC training
FITEC Training Leader of the Year – Terry Phillips, Norske Skog Tasman, $1000 travel voucher
Health & Safety Initiative – Nelson Forests Ltd, $1000 in FITEC training.

Mr Boyd says the FITEC National Training Awards are an opportunity to appreciate how significant their sector is to the New Zealand economy.

“We have businesses from forestry, sawmilling and remanufacturing to furniture, pulp and paper and wood panels – and roles as diverse as machine operators, manual workers, technicians, chemists, foremen, managers, engineers, marketers and many others – all contributing to annual earnings of around $3.7 billion,” he says.

“Every year, we see amazing stories of personal and team achievement in an industry where training and safety are absolutely crucial. The awards help to highlight how companies that really commit to training their staff, reap the economic awards for years to come.”

“This year is no different, and the stories behind many of the winners are nothing short of inspirational.”