“Contractors saw our students learning inside our high-tech excavator simulators recently, and were impressed at the skill level that they are operating at after 9 weeks,” says Richard Stringfellow, Programme Area Lead – Forest Operations at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology.
The contractors said it would’ve taken them 6 months to get new employees to that level of skill on the job.”
Now forestry students at Rotorua’s Mokoia Campus will be taking another step forward with the arrival of the institute’s own branded excavator, a project supported by PF Olsen.
“It’s a must for us now. The students are getting live machine time as part of their qualification and all their exercises are practised to an industry standard.”
A New Zealand tertiary first for an institute of its kind, the initiative is designed to combat the lack of young, skilled operators in the industry, making sure students highly-honed virtual skills have a practical ‘real world’ finish.
“The forestry industry is changing from manual to mechanised labour,” says Richard.
“We use the simulators to get students familiar with all the parts, functions and controls, meaning they have one less thing to worry about when they get into the actual machine.
“That includes health and safety requirements, prestart checks and walking around the excavator, checking everything is as it should be.”
With word of the excavator spreading, Richard says contractors are now referring students their way, so that their staff can take advantage of this region-specific training opportunity.
“Everyone is trying to get in on it now. With the intake prior to the simulators arrival, we borrowed a machine to test how effective it would be.
“Of those 13 students, 8 are already employed within industry.”