The group that attended the MTO Silviculture Skills Training Programme.

A group of young people from eMbonisweni and Hazyview in the White River region of Mpumalanga have recently completed MTO’s Silviculture Forestry Skills Programme. Over a period of three months they were taught the ins and outs of the forestry industry, focusing on the cultivation and care of trees until they are ready for harvesting.

Exposure is a key part of the Programme, which targets communities located near MTO’s plantations.

“There are many careers that can be followed in forestry, even university studies. But few people are aware of them,” said Jabu Kuhlase, MTO White River Training Manager. “We started the programme for two reasons: to expose people to the opportunities available for them in the industry, and to help create skills pools and address unemployment.”

Free training & equipment
All fifteen participants successfully completed the course which was held from October to December last year. They were provided with free training and equipment, classroom and practical exposure, as well as a monthly stipend. During the programme they learned valuable skills in silviculture but also in entrepreneurship to help them start their own businesses or establish cooperatives.

“Attending the skills programme gave me a chance to learn more about forestry and the environment,” commented one of the trainees, 24-year-old Faith Mbali Maseko. “I love being outdoors and close to nature … I’ve fallen in love with forestry and will surely pursue a career in it.”

Another graduate, Nomfundo Maluka (24) said she had not considered forestry as a career option before attending the programme. “As it progressed I became more interested. I decided to get involved for me to have more knowledge as I live in a place surrounded by forests.”

Of the first group of graduates, several have already been hired by contractors looking for skilled employees. This includes Nomfundo, who has joined Sizanendaba Co-Op Ltd.

Since hearing of the programme, a number of contractors have contacted MTO and asked for CVs of the learners. A few participants have used the momentum from the programme to pursue further studies.

MTO is planning to offer more forestry skills training opportunities in the Cape and Lowveld in 2019.

“We’d like to see more young people join the programme and the workforce of MTO and our contractors,” said Kuhlase.

Matriculants between the ages of 18 and 35 can apply for the programme, which is an MTO Cares initiative.

*First published in SA Forestry magazine

Related article: MTO contractor development making a difference

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