A forestry course gets 10 out of 10 from participants and employers alike, with all 10 recent graduates having a job offer at the end of the course.
A graduation ceremony for the 10 young people was held on Friday at the Senior Citizen's Hall in Stratford. Stratford mayor Neil Volzke attended the ceremony as did many family and friends of the graduates along with key stakeholders.
The Taranaki Forestry Conservation course is funded by Te Uru Rakau and NorthTec with Tree Machine contracted to provide the training. It is supported by Taranaki Regional Council, iwi, hapū, Department of Conservation and Ministry of Social Development and forestry companies.
By completing the course participants have gained national level two qualifications for forestry, which are entry level requirements to get work in the forestry or conservation industries.
The trainees completed 12 unit standards over 17 weeks, focused on first aid, health and safety, chainsaw use and tree planting.
Course trainer, and Tree Machine manager, David Hare, alongside fellow Tree Machine employee and trainer Shane Brightwell, have worked with the trainees over the past four months. They were joined by Steve Robinson of Tree Machine who provided pastoral care for the students.
David says as well as gaining qualifications in the industry, participants have also been learning about Māori protocols and history.
Tikanga, karakia, waiata and pepeha were also studied as part of the course.
"It's about teaching them a way to identify themselves, where they come from, what they do and to also understand the historical and cultural aspects of the area they are going into."
He says there is a big demand for workers in the forestry and conservation industries, to complete the Billion Dollar tree programme. The programme is the aim to plant 1 billion trees by 2028.
"Once they have completed their course, they are all going straight into work. One of trainees is going into the farming industry and the other into arboriculture. The other trainees will go to work for different contractors like Matike Environmental Services and Tree Machine Forestry and High Cut Forest Contractors."
David says pastoral care is a key factor to the course's success.
"Steve is responsible for helping the trainees. It's an important role as he's responsible for their personal needs before and after the course. Once they are in their jobs, Steve will continue to check in with them to make sure they're doing well."
Speaking at the graduation, Steve said he took the pastoral care very seriously.
"I have treated them as my own children because everyone, whatever age, needs family. There is not one of these students that I would not personally employ."
The graduation was also attended by Stacey Hitchcock, who is part of the workforce development for Department of Conservation. Stacey says the course has given local rangatahi an "amazing" opportunity.
"They have gained both mentorship and training through the programme. They have received experience in different forestry and conservation work and have a pathway directly into employment. It's great for Taranaki."
Speaking at the graduation, NorthTec forestry training manager Phil Nikora said he was reminded of a Māori whakatauākī - "Mā tōu rourou, Mā tāku rourou, Ka ora ai te iwi."
"With your basket and my basket, the people will prosper."
These words were very true he said, as many people in the room had shared from their basket to help teach the students during the course.
Course participant Katie Doyle says she enjoyed taking part in the course.
"It was a real eye-opener into learning different forestry skills."
Katie is going to work in the farming industry.
"Due to Covid, I was made redundant from my job. I saw an advertisement for the course in the local newspaper and I decided to give it a go. I'm so glad I did. I have now successfully applied for a farming job just outside of Stratford. It's a really beneficial course."
She says the course has given her the confidence to correctly use a chainsaw and set traps.
"They're all skills that apply to farming."
Finn Cheskley is going into the arboriculture sector once the course finishes.
"David has an arboriculture crew and I'll be working alongside him, gaining some experience before I go to take a two-year arboriculture course."
Finn says he was working at Wellington Airport but was made redundant due to Covid-19.
"My mother mentioned the course to me and it sounded like a great opportunity. It's been really great. I've learned a lot and I feel comfortable to go and work in a forestry company."
Saul Beaument says the course was "life-changing".
"It really opened my eyes. When I started I was quite introverted, but now I've come out of my shell and made some new friends."
Stratford mayor Neil Volzke says he is pleased for the young people graduating from the course.
"This qualification sets them on a good road to employment. There is going to be an ongoing demand for people with their skills which can be utilised in a number of different ways."
David says the course has run for two years and has its next intake in February.
■ Contact David Hare on 027 522 7024 for more information.