The course is supported by Skills to Advance, a national initiative by SOLAS, that provides upskilling and reskilling opportunities to employees in jobs, as well as equipping them with the skills they need to progress in their current role or to adapt to changing technologies.
Forestry forwarders are specialised machines that are used to collect cut lengths of timber and transport them from the forest to a roadside stacking area on harvesting sites. Forwarder operators manoeuvre through the forest following the route of the harvester, extracting felled timber to the loading area before arranging log assortments for collection. Forwarder machine operators are required to have a broad technical ability and knowledge alongside safety, environmental and organisational skills.
At the launch, Dr Anne-Marie Butler, Teagasc Head of Education, outlined how staff in Ballyhaise Agricultural College have worked closely with forestry harvesting contractors in recent years and together, they have identified skills gaps and the need to invest in their workforce by providing education and training to staff.
Furthermore, Dr Butler reminded those present that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has supported this area of training by funding the development of the course content and the purchase of a simulator, which is a key component of delivering the course.
Employees enrolling on the course will receive training using the forwarder simulator at Ballyhaise Agricultural College. They will attend one day per week via face-to-face and online classes in college, along with completing industry visits relevant to the course. They should also be participating in on the job learning on these machines facilitated by their employers to ensure they become proficient operators during the timeframe of the course. On successful completion, employees will receive a QQI level 5 certificate.
The launch of this course was hosted by Coillte on one of its active sites in Co. Laois, with both a harvester and forwarder on display. Coillte, Ireland’s semi-state forestry company, will support the forwarder course by providing working sites for field trips that are scheduled throughout the course.
Eamonn Kenny, Operations Director at Coillte, explained that the harvesting industry needs employees that are certified with up-to-date skills to work in this sector, he said, “as well as being competent at operating these machines, employees must have in-depth awareness of health and safety and protection of the environment to ensure that harvesting operations are effectively carried out.”
This training programme is subsidised through the Skills to Advance initiative. Companies can receive a subsidy of up to 100% towards the cost of the training programme. The level of subsidy is in the form of state aid and depends on various factors relating to your company. The ETB advise you on this contribution which may result in no fees.