Media Release – Friday 31 July 2020

The next generation of aspiring foresters and timber workers are being given the keys to fast track their career thanks to an innovative pathway program.

A total of 12 students from Limestone Coast schools are enrolled in the inaugural year of the Forestry Pathways Program which is assisting the Green Triangle sector to manage recruitment gaps.

Starting as early as year 10, students can study for up to three years working towards a Certificate III in Forest and Wood Products whilst earning valuable SACE credit points.

Emma Handford from the South Australian Department of Education said students were given a three-session overview, hosted and presented by industry, covering everything from working in blue gum and pine, the nursery, harvest and haulage and milling process.

The Forestry Pathway Program is a OneFortyOne led, industry, FitNet and Department of Education collaboration. This round has been supported by NF McDonnell and Sons, Timberlink, Green Triangle Forest Products, HVP Plantations, Timberlands and SFM Asset Management who have volunteered their organisations to host and mentor students through the program.

NF McDonnell and Sons CEO Craig Nisbet said the training was invaluable in providing a new channel to highlight career opportunities in the sector.

“There is a good balance of theory and practice from local industry identities so these students can get a real hands-on perspective of careers available in the forestry sector,” Mr Nisbet said.

Fellow program supporter, Timberlink Australia’s talent acquisition partner Ben Stow agreed the program was providing long-term industry benefits.

“It is pleasing to know that the work being done today is setting the building blocks for these young people to start a rewarding career in the Limestone Coast region which could take them anywhere,” Mr Stow said.

Mount Gambier based training organisation LITA, which manages much of the training, is seeing the benefits come to life in the classroom.

“Seeing their excitement and enthusiasm as they undertake the activities makes leading this program so rewarding,” LITA general manager Sandy Kanahs said.

This year’s students benefitting from the program include St Martin’s Lutheran College student Xavier Farrell and Ashton Slotegraaf of Grant High School. The pair were attracted to the course to achieve their career goals of working as fitters in a local mill.

For fellow classmate, Tenison Woods College student Fergus Calderwood the lure of “being out in the bush” was the primary attraction.

“I hope to one day have a career (in forest), hopefully driving machinery,” he said.

The use of a harvesting simulator provided Fergus and his classmates with a taste of how to use the technical million-dollar equipment on a recent field-day.

Earlier this month they were learning how to grade wood, recognising and marking quality issues with various pine log. They will soon begin to learn how to build effective workplace communication skills and gain an understanding of the importance of workplace health and safety.

OneFortyOne’s Linda Cotterill said the program did more than just recruit future talent.

“It’s about sharing with our local youth the role forestry plays in our community as one of the largest employers and that it offers long term, sustainable employment in a wide range of roles like operators, trades, foresters, lawyers, accountants, safety, human resource experts and more,” she said.

Financial sponsor of this latest round, FitNet’s Lew Parsons said “forestry can open many doors”.

“From working in science, research, human resources, data analysis, accounting, engineering, technical trades such as mechanics – the scope is broad and for many of our students they didn’t realise the enormity of the sector until they started this learning,” he said.

The pathway program is currently open to all secondary schools in the Limestone Coast with hopes of extending its reach to western Victorian schools in the coming years.

Up to 15 students are recruited via an application process starting in August each year from years 10 to 12.

The Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub has supported the program, recognising the need to attract and retain staff as a key pillar in its strategic plan.

Hub executive general manager Liz McKinnon said the recruitment shortfall had forced some companies to look at global avenues to recruit staff.

She said the Hub workplan was identifying areas of skill shortages required over the next decade and the creation of mentor and cadetship programs to support emerging talent.

“Together this work is assisting to attract, upskill and develop a workforce that holds the skills to meet future needs,” she said.

“We are confident that through this important learning pathway these talented young students, including a growing number of women, will gain a greater understanding of the forest sector and consider it as a worthy future career path.”

Pic:  Thomas Graney, Mt Gambier High School, Bradley Cameron, St Martin’s Lutheran College (back) with Tenison Wood College students Harry Fisher and Fergus Calderwood (front) during a recent industry session at LITA.