There is no such thing as too much training

Forestry training takes a number of forms, none more critical than job knowledge shared by workmates – often gained by learning from past mistakes.

Training can also be classroom based such as the AMS ‘Leadership and Crew Foremen’ training, and PF Olsen’s  ‘Managing Risk at Forestry Worksites’.

There is also the more formal New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) unit standards training.  This training is very specific to the tasks undertaken at worksites. PF Olsen requires everyone to be ‘trained for task’ and engages with the AMS Group – a specialised training provider – to help with this enormous task.

AMS Group utilise a number of well-respected trainers and assessors. These come from across New Zealand and some are highly specialised. In most cases a trainer will follow a crew from worksite to worksite developing strong working relationships with that group and a knowledge of how individuals are progressing in their development.

Mike Hohneck is a senior trainer/assessor for The AMS Group, and has held a number of training roles both in New Zealand and overseas. His experience and knowledge is well respected within the industry.

Recently we had the opportunity to spend some time with Mike while he worked with two of the crew of Hohneck Tractor Logging Ltd. (Yes they are related. Kas Hohneck the principal contractor is Mike’s younger brother).

Mike knows the business inside and out, and has been a contractor himself working “on the tools”. Mike’s passion for training becomes quickly evident as he stresses the value of knowledge and learning with his catch phrase, “There is no such thing as too much training!”

Hohneck Tractor Logging Ltd, the winner of the 2016 PF Olsen Most Improved Crew for Safety Award, has benefitted from Mike’s keen oversight. A visitor to this crew can expect smart signage and a good induction. Travelling further into the Hohneck worksite, Mike points out how the communication over the radio is constructive and kept to work matters.

“This is always a good sign of crew comradery and a good culture. These guys look after one another and help each other out,” says Mike.

A good culture is necessary to keep everyone learning.

As Mike puts it, “they are not afraid to share a better way of doing something – they will share their secrets. In that way training is going on all the time, formally and informally, and this helps to meet the contractor’s obligation to train, so that workers are kept safe.”

During the crew’s lunch break Mike takes the time to share a few words with the newest crew member. Mike will work with him later, but for now it’s time to build on this new relationship. Mike has a lot of respect for the new and old hands alike, “some of them operate million dollar machines and deserve recognition for the skills they have”.

A crew member shares his view of Mike’s role. He sees Mike “As someone with knowledge and the skill to come in to our operation and see the things that others cannot.”

Mike reiterates the point by telling the guys, “There’s a lot to learn, to the point that good practice is like second nature.” Looking at the newest crew member he says, “It is not just about using a chainsaw correctly it is about using a chainsaw correctly all day every day. It’s not like cutting firewood you know, you have to cut straight.”

In Mike’s words, “the key thing for any trainer is wanting to make a difference”, and we agree.

With a typical forestry workday in mind Mike is always looking for new and effective ways to present his material. He uses DVD’s and often demonstrates good practice and technique, because as he says “books are not always the preferred method of gaining knowledge out here in the forest.”

Our contractors speak very highly of the training and support provided by PF Olsen and the AMS trainers such as Mike Hohneck. They are seeing productivity and safety gains – two things they can be very proud of. They are also seeing individuals developing and enjoying their jobs.

Keep up the good work everyone!

Mike works alongside Tayler, a young guy from a forestry family. Tayler is keen to learn and sees forestry as a positive future for him. Young people have much to learn but we are confident that they are in the hands of good teachers, and that they will achieve their goals and enjoy their time in the forest industry.