Northland needs at least 74 new forestry workers to replace those retiring or changing jobs in one of the fastest growing sectors in the region, an industry trainer says.

Competenz chief executive Fiona Kingsford said demand for forestry workers this year alone was 1000 nationally, and about 500 were needed to fill existing roles.

Currently, there are about 900 forestry workers in Northland harvesting about 4.8 million cu m of radiata pine each year and she said at least another 74 are needed straight away.

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Kingsford said forestry companies in Northland could benefit from new apprenticeship programmes designed to upskill their workers ahead of predicted industry growth.

Competenz has launched two forest harvesting apprenticeships – one in manual operations and another in mechanical.

She said with mechanical harvesting increasing, the new apprenticeships would ensure workers gained key entry-level skills and knowledge before advancing to operation of mechanised processors and harvesters.

"Our forestry participation data shows the Northland region could need another 74 forestry workers this year."

Kingsford said since there was a lot of focus on issues pertaining to forestry such as the goal to plant a billion trees and investment through the Provincial Growth Fund, it was vital our workforce was skilled and productive to meet the Government's growth targets.

Nearly 65 per cent of the forestry workforce, she said, has no post-school qualification which was why training and education were essential for the sector to become more mechanised and to move into a period of rapid growth.

An experienced forestry worker in Northland, Howard Skipps, said there was just no support for new people wanting to fell trees.

Skipps, who has spent 39 years in the forestry sector throughout New Zealand and is currently based in Northland, said it was easier and cheaper for companies to employ experienced workers than to train them.

"Health and safety puts a lot of restrictions on new people and also there's a lot of cost and supervision time involved. But forestry contractors and others right down to schools need to get behind it."

Andrew Widdowson, northern area manager for Hancock Forest Management, said between 70 and 100 more forestry workers were ideally needed in the region.

"The industry needs to be effective in communicating to schools so that career advisers arm students with the knowledge on what the forestry sector offers."

The two manual and mechanical apprenticeships fall under the Government's fees free scheme which makes the first two years of industry training free for some people.

Potential apprentices can check their eligibility on www.feesfree.govt.nz before signing a training agreement.