In answer to a question “Where can this industry take me?”, Tasmania’s forestry careers hub says “Almost anywhere you want to go”.
Colin McCulloch from the Tasmanian Forest Industry’s Arbre Training and Careers Hub said he found an answer in the latest forestry technology, when a 14-year-old “robotics expert” asked him that question this week.
The Hub uses high-fidelity computer training on Finnish-designed simulators to give operators hours of practice before they go bush and work big expensive harvesting equipment.
Mr McCulloch said there were more than 100 different roles across the forestry industry and abundant job opportunities.
“What we’re trying to do here is get these machines, these simulators, into the community,” he said.
“[We are] putting out a broad perspective with this, for want of a better word ‘game show’.
“We get people attracted and then we really work with those people who are interested in what these simulators can do, and can do for our forest management,” Mr McCulloch said.
At the opening of the Arbre Forest Industry’s Training and Careers Hub in Launceston, Tasmanian Treasurer and Forestry Minister Peter Gutwein said the wood and fibre sector remained vital to Tasmania, as a major export earner and local employer.
Chairman of the Hub, Darrell Clark said the industry itself had designed and was funding the facility, to shape the workforce it needed long-term.
“We just haven’t got the numbers any more,” Mr Clark said.
“Young people haven’t seen forestry as a career in the past, they’ve seen it as a dirty, hard-working environment.
“Whereas when they get exposed to the simulators and equipment, all of a sudden they think ‘this is a bit like a play station or an Xbox’.”
He said smart operators were needed to utilise optimisation equipment within the machinery to extract the maximum value out of forest assets.
“Just the sophistication of the equipment; it’s just so much more complex,” Mr Clark said.
“It’s all here, because this is a learning environment for all the aspects, from being efficient operators to understanding safe working procedures and understanding environmental components.
“It’s really important to get that base level before people go into the forest environment.”
Machinery sales representatives said forestry equipment sales had surged over the past two years.
Simon Shackleton from John Deere said he was visiting Tasmania to demonstrate the latest forestry skidders equipped with advanced technology and analytical tools, all accessible from the operator’s chair.
“So the total machine, to go to work in the bush is worth $800,000,” Mr Shackleton said.
“When you’re investing that amount of money you want it to go straight to work.
“We’ve had two particularly good years in a row.
“Long may it continue because we haven’t had years like this in a long time.”