Southland students have been encouraged to become the future of forestry.

To coincide with the UN International Day of Forests, a forestry careers day was held on Thursday 21 March to introduce students to the many varied jobs available in forestry in Southland.

Held at the Winton Salvation Army, the event attracted 70 students including eight students who travelled from Tokomairiro High School in Milton, where they are involved in forestry classes two days a week.

Students were able to learn about the harvesting, management, environmental and new technology aspects of forestry from speakers at Rayonier Matariki Forests and City Forests, and speak with industry experts about career pathways and job opportunities in the sector.

An informal expo setting also allowed students to watch a drone demonstration, experience a forestry harvesting simulator and inspect and handle items ranging from chainsaws to seedling trees.

The event was organised by Southland Youth Futures in partnership with Acacia Farmery of Rayonier Matariki Forests, and other local members of the recently-formed Future Foresters Group which aims to increase the number of young people choosing forestry as an industry.

Although 1650 people are employed directly in Southland’s forests and downstream industries, it is recognised that many more workers will be required locally and nationally as the Government’s one billion trees planting project gets underway.

Southland Youth Futures coordinator Allison Beckham said the ‘Be the Future of Forestry’ day was a first for Southland, and possibly for New Zealand.

“As far as I am aware, nothing like this has been held before anywhere in New Zealand. It was an exciting and stimulating way to introduce students to forestry careers.”

The response from students, teachers and industry participants was overwhelmingly positive, she said.

“Some of the industry participants are very keen to replicate the day in Otago, and we have offered our help to make that happen.’’

Southland Youth Futures is a Venture Southland-led programme which strengthens connections between young people and primary sector employers by providing career exploration opportunities. Among the many industries explored are dairying, horticulture, apiculture, trades, manufacturing, rural contracting, business services, science and technology, and exporting.