Hi-tech training tools to support timber industry

A TAFE NSW Tumut student practices a cross-cut during a recent TAFE NSW class. New technology at TAFE NSW means students from timber growing regions will be able to travel less and still receive world-class training.

TAFE NSW is at the forefront of a technological revolution in forestry training, with state-of-the-art new equipment allowing Mid North Coast forestry apprentices to learn remotely and reduce travel costs and downtime.

TAFE NSW Tumut, in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains, is one of only two forestry training facilities in Australia and delivers training to apprentice saw technicians from all the major timber regions, including the Mid North Coast.

In an industry first, a Connected Learning Point has recently been established at TAFE NSW Tumut, allowing an intricate network of cameras to capture the facility’s sawmill in action and beam it back to apprentices across the country.

The $23 billion timber industry is in the midst of a worsening skills shortage, with leaders saying an ageing workforce is jeopardising the industry’s ability to seize on an expected quadrupling in demand globally for wood products by 2050.

A saw technician – or saw doctor – is responsible for making, repairing, maintaining and sharpening a wide range of timber cutting tools and saw blades.

TAFE NSW Tumut Forestry Training Centre Leader Dallas Goldspink said the new training tools would help ensure apprentice saw technicians could get the practical skills and experience – regardless of where they were located.

“This will allow teachers to deliver training remotely and the hi-tech cameras will be able to zoom in and out while the machines are running,” Mr Goldspink said.

“Hopefully, it will help attract more apprentices because there is a shortage nationwide of saw technicians and that has created a great opportunity to have a long and rewarding career in the trade.”

Currently, apprentices attend TAFE NSW Tumut for up to ten one-week ‘blocks’ during their apprenticeship, incurring extensive travel costs for local employers.

Mr Goldspink said when the new Connected Learning Point is switched on at the start of 2023, apprentices will still attend the campus for assessment but parts of the theory and practical components can be completed at home or in the workplace.

Forest Industry Council (Southern NSW) chair Liz Austen welcomed the new technology and said TAFE NSW Tumut’s Forest Industry Training Centre was a critical part of providing a skilled workforce of the future to the local industry.

“Forestry is so diverse and there are so many different pathways for young people to build a career,” Ms Austen said.

“The industry has been hit by a lot but it’s still surviving and thriving.

“We really need that pipeline of new workers coming through and TAFE NSW Tumut is the ideal training facility to provide that.”

To explore the range of courses available at TAFE NSW and via TAFE Digital, visit www.tafensw.edu.au or phone 131 601 for more information.

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