A pilot logging training scheme in Gisborne could be rolled out nationally after it was found to have "significantly" benefitted those taking part.
The ManaiaSAFE Forestry Schools 20-week pilot training programme was intended to bridge the gap between the classroom and commercial sites by delivering a specifically designed training programme within a controlled, commercial environment.
An independent report evaluating the scheme also found wider benefits.
"The MFS Pilot Evaluation strongly supports the claim that a national network of ManaiaSAFE Forestry Schools is likely to deliver significant socio-economic benefits to the forest industry and its supplier network, forest-based communities across the regions, Maori and Pasifika, and the national economy," the report said.
Eight trainees have graduated from the Gisborne scheme.
Project manager Henry Koia said the scheme addressed several issues for the region.
"There are few reasons why the ManaiaSAFE Forestry School pilot training programme had to happen.
"One of those is because there are a lot of people in our community who have fallen through the cracks of our education system, particularly young people who need the opportunity to acquire the knowledge, skills and even work ethic that's going to set them up for the rest of their lives, whether they end up in forestry or not.
"Another reason is because there are negative consequences and opportunities lost associated with a forestry skills shortage, especially in a region like ours where forestry is an economic driver.
"It's easy to understand why the school must stay in our region and why community stakeholders and industry and government agencies must come together to help the school scale up the training model, so it can have greater reach and a positive impact on more lives across our region."
The $840,000 pilot programme was co-funded by the Government's Provincial Growth Fund (just over $300,000), Eastland Community Trust, Forest Growers Levy Trust, Te Uru Rakau, Eastern Institute of Technology and Ernslaw One Limited.
Regional Economic Development and Forestry Minister Shane Jones last year said if successful, the pilot could also form the basis for similar training courses in other parts of the country where there are forestry skills shortages.
Koia said there would be a second intake of rookie loggers later this month, with enrolments being accepted through EIT.
The first intake of students in Eastland Wood Council's forestry training Generation Programme graduated in December last year, with most securing full-time work.
Generation Programme manager Siobhain Fyall said out of the 11 trainees, eight had jobs.
The programme was developed to meet the skill and workforce needs of the forest industry.
"The proof of its success is that our contractors have engaged with the programme and see the value of our trainees to them," said Eastland Wood Council chief executive Kim Holland.
The high level of motivation in trainees over the six-week base camp course also stood out.
"They are continuing to work on national certificates, supervised by senior forestry tutor Henry Mulligan and George Tanirau at Turanga Ararau."
A key component of the programme was employer and trainee commitment to ongoing training while receiving ongoing support and pastoral care.
Hawke's Bay, Southern North Island, and Northland wood councils had expressed interest in the programme, Holland said.
The programme is nearing its first birthday, with the completion next week of the second generation of trainees — all of them working towards their Level 3 National Certificate in Harvesting Operations.
Five of the 11 trainees are already with contractors on work experience or having been offered employment.
Employment Minister Willie Jackson, who launched the Generation Programme as part of He Poutama Rangatahi, will be in Gisborne next week.