More Kiwis are looking to carve out a career in the forestry sector than ever before, with the post-Covid boom in training enrolments felt in Hawke's Bay.
The number of Kiwis enrolling in forestry training programmes has more than trebled nationwide.
Industry training organisation Competenz reported a 314 per cent increase in enrolments in the past 12 months across New Zealand.
Competenz chief executive officer Fiona Kingsford believes is in part due to the government's post-Covid funding boost.
Through the Targeted Training and Apprenticeship Fund (TTAF), all apprenticeships and traineeships were made free from July 2020 until December 2022.
Kingsford said the government's apprenticeship boost provides relief for employers and protects the jobs of workers in the early stages of their apprenticeships.
"It also allows businesses to take on new apprentices to help combat an ongoing skills shortage and post-Covid unemployment," she said.
"The government has shown a real commitment to getting New Zealand industry training back on track to lead our post-Covid economic recovery."
Amy Satherley, who owns Bayview-based ATS Logging alongside husband Toby, said they've seen a jump in the number of people wanting to work in forestry.
ATS Logging currently employs 26 staff – four of whom are undertaking a Competenz apprenticeship, with others are working towards national certificates.
Satherley said the training programmes allow for a clear career path within the forestry sector.
"There are quite a few young people who come into the industry with little or no experience," she said. "But nowadays there's a push to have some qualifications against your name.
"We have a 20-year-old who will soon be on a machine – he's got a great work ethic and attitude, and it didn't take him long to progress."
Satherley said the past 18 months have been hard for the forestry industry due to volatile export markets and Covid-19.
"Export prices were dropping before Covid and we've been on productivity restrictions, which have only just come off, but the outlook now is generally more positive," she added.
The TTAF fund also covers levels three to seven NZ Certificates traineeships and micro-credentials in a number of sectors including forestry.
More than 5400 people are needed nationwide to fill roles in the industry over the next five years.
Kingsford said the financial support will help a wave of school leavers who face an uncertain future an opportunity.
"An apprentice wage subsidy enables more young people to undertake on-the-job training, get paid and gain nationally-recognised qualifications, providing tangible opportunities that may not have been available otherwise, which is great news for the forestry industry," she added.