Forestry training stakeholders chart the road ahead

February 27, 2012

The SA Forestry Contractors Association and the Forest Industries Training Providers Association were co-organisers of the second annual Training Indaba held in Pietermaritzburg recently.

Forest Industry Training Providers Assoc. committee members
Forest Industry Training Providers Association committee members (front row left to right) Ashley Diack, Pam Naidoo (current chairperson) and Martin Stander, (back row L-R) Jeff Viljoen and James Ballantyne.
Forestry training indaba participants Mondi supervisors developing Supervisor Dev. Programme
Participants of the second Training Indaba. The ‘pilot group’ of Mondi supervisors are already halfway through the new Supervisor Development Programme. The training facilitator is Nceba Ntloko of Kwamahlathi Training Services.

 

The Indaba provided some positive signs that stakeholders involved in forestry training, including growers, contractors, training service providers and the new FPM Seta, are beginning to find each other and work together towards creating a more effective training environment. The mere fact that the Indaba was co-hosted by SAFCA and FITPA is a step in the right direction.

P.K. Naicker of the FPM Seta provided an assurance that the new Seta is up and running and has a clear set of objectives. These include the identification of scarce and critical skills, to develop quality occupation-directed learning programmes and to implement an integrated skills development qualification framework to promote skills acquisition. Good news for local stakeholders was that the Seta has opened a regional office in Durban.

Gerson Ndanganeni, Mondi's Richmond area manager, provided some useful insights into the improved training environment in his organisation. In the past, training funds were set aside but were not always used by contractors. However, after Mondi developed a training matrix which contractors must comply with, and appointed SAFCA to co-ordinate training for them, the situation has improved. He said budgeted training funds are now utilised, and results are evident in the operations with improved productivity and safety performance. It had also resulted in improved relationships between contractors and training service providers.

Arnold Makhuta of Ngala Forestry Services, a small Mpumalanga-based contractor, provided sobering information about attitudes to training in some quarters. He said that most small contractors train merely to tick the boxes and comply with legal and contractual requirements – there was a lack of communication between the employer/contractor and the training service providers.

In order to improve the situation, he said there is a need to identify and measure the benefits that the business derives from training, and to get management to adapt the work environment to enable employees to apply their newly learnt skills. The benefits of this approach is that it boosts employee motivation and morale, and creates functioning work systems.

Michal Brink of the Ugie-based College of Machine Operators said that the industry needs to adopt a co-ordinated approach to assessment and training of forestry machine operators. He said that there are 200 forest machines in use in South Africa and 400 operators, of whom only 29 have received formal training. The number of operators who have been properly assessed is 68.

The Supervisor Development Programme
Mike Hunter, a contractor for Sappi in the Zululand area, provided some exciting input on the Supervisor Development Programme, which has now entered the roll-out phase. It is a joint project between forestry owners, contractors, training service providers and the Seta, which assisted with funding for the development of the programme. It comprises 24 modules, run over a period of 18 to 24 months. Application will be made to the SA Qualifications Authority for the programme to be recognised as a learnership leading towards a formal qualification.

There are two pilot groups currently engaged in the programme with another group due to kick off in January. Some of the modules are still under development and are expected to be completed by mid-2012.

Published in December 2011

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