Government funding boosts forestry career pathways

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

ManaiaSAFE Forestry School in Te Tairāwhiti-East Coast is helping young Māori to turn their lives around and providing a pathway into secure employment.

“We run our own forestry training crew, " ManaiaSAFE managing director Henry Koia says.

"We log so we can provide our students with actual work experience so, when they go through our 20- week programme, they know what to expect when they walk into a fulltime high-production commercial environment.”

The 20-week programme is growing. It started from an initial pilot in 2018 and there are now 29 graduates.

“This is their first day this morning, so they've gone through their induction, and now they're getting a feel for the action environment," Koia says.  "The past four or so weeks they've been in the classroom. We're partners with EIT  in Gisborne, so we use their classrooms to give them a feel about the theory.”

Improving life chances

New student Fabian Miller says, “I just like being in the outdoors, a bit of hard work. Being out here is pretty inspirational to be honest, seeing the dudes from the last cohort, watching them do their thing is pretty massive for me.”

The programme is one of four initiatives backed by a $5.5 million government investment to support 150 Māori into work and training in the Bay of Plenty, Northland and Te Tairāwhiti.

“It's not just about logging, we actually help people grow to improve their life chances,” says Koia. “We use things like giving up drugs, achieving a qualification and gaining fulltime employment in the logging industry as meaningful goals to support their personal life journey.”

“It's a good gateway to a career, upskilling, trying to better myself and fill that kete up, and ManaiaSAFE has given me the tools to do that,”  Miller says.

Another graduate, Matt Beach, says he was deported from Australia in 2016, "so I had a pretty rough time there and I felt this was a second chance to go on a course and make a career for myself and my family, pretty much turn my life around. That's where I found the course and just following the steps, trying to get as far as I can in the forestry industry so, yeah, big life change for me.”

Open and honest

ManaiaSAFE Training School secured $180,000 of that funding to train six students, and follow up with pastoral care for six months to support their transition into fulltime employment.

“I'm currently doing four New Zealand certificates. I'm training for log-making, getting my fleet on the loader, fleet stack, and also looking into some more health and safety and incident response training and learning, so that's where I'm at,”  Beach says.

He has words of encouragement to those who are unemployed or looking for a new path.

“It's a whanau to be honest once you're in. Leave everything at the door, be open and honest with each other, that's a key factor, to let people know that you have a past but, if you want to turn your life around, you can do it. Look at us now - we're both going for New Zealand certificates, so don't be whakama. Just approach any course and we'll take it from there, we'll look after you."

ManaiaSAFE plans a national roll-out over the next two to four years with a plan to create 117 teaching jobs across 48 locations across the country, targeting young people who live in rural forest-based communities.