Forestry worker shortage, youths sought out

In August 8, 2017

(NZ) – Southland students are trying their hand at operating “hi-tech” forestry equipment, as the industry tries to draw in more workers.

A shortage in forestry workers and an aging population in the industry meant there was a need to draw in young people interested in the career.

Rayonier Matariki Forests forester Olly Halleux said “contractors were screaming out for more people”.

“We’ve got an aging workforce … it is challenging getting workers.”

The organisation was doing it’s best to promote the industry, which had a lot of variety of work, he said.

“It’s so diverse in what you can do.”

There was about 40,000 hectares of land to be worked on in Otago and Southland.

Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology programme area lead for forestry Richard Stringfellow said nationally it was becoming increasing difficult to recruit people, especially given there was a stigma about the job.

People often viewed the industry negatively, as hard work, with unintelligent workers who had drug and alcohol problems, he said.

But it was not true. “They have to be switched on people.”

The average age of forestry workers was 55, so there was a need to bring on “fresh”, young people, Stringfellow said.

“We’re trying to target youths … 20 to mid 20s and younger. We want to get them in there and grow them.”

A forestry harvesting simulator was set up at Career Fest Southland on Thursday and Friday.

Student from schools throughout the region had a go at using the simulator that was brought down from Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, which was based in Rotorua.

The $26,000 simulator was used to train students at the institute and was the only one of its kind in New Zealand.

The simulator caught the eye of many youngsters at the expo, who thought it was a game, Stringfellow said.

But it was definitely not a game, as it has the same controls as the real machines, he said.

“As the controls, buttons and actions are all identical to the machines used out in industry, those trying it out will get as close to an experience as possible without actually being in the bush.”

It was the first time the simulator was brought to the Otago-Southland region.

Forestry worker shortage, youths sought out by Rebecca Moore.  Available from <> [Last updated 11:49, July 30 2017]

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