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10. Improving forest harvesting practices through training and education - Ross Andrewartha*


* Harvesting Superintendent (Southern Region), Forestry Tasmania, Hobart, 79 Melville Street, Hobart, Tasmania 7000, Australia, Tel: ++(61 3) 6233 3282, Fax: ++(61 3) 6233 8252, E-mail: Ross.Andrewartha@forestrytas.com.au

INTRODUCTION

Training and education of industry personnel are critical in any strategy to improve forest-harvesting practices. Tasmania has pioneered improvements in forest operations within the Australian forest industry, with the introduction of the Forest Practices Act in 1985, of which the Forest Practices Code (FPC) is an integral part. The code outlines minimal environmental standards that must be achieved for all forest operations, including guidelines to reduce the impact of logging.

The subsequent improvement in harvesting practices is a result of strong commitment to the code at all levels of government and industry and the professional dedication of forest practices officers (FPOs). FPOs are responsible for all operational planning and monitoring of forest operations to ensure compliance with the FPC.

The Vanuatu Code of Logging Practice (VCOLP) was introduced in 1998, using the existing Forestry Act as the basis for legislation (Vanuatu Department of Forests, 1997a). Full compliance with all operating standards was to be achieved by 31 December 2000. Complementary to the code, reduced impact logging (RIL) guidelines were formulated designed to assist field supervisory staff and industry operators in executing forest-harvesting plans (as required by the VCOLP). These guidelines specify tree selection and skid track alignment procedures, maximum skid track and landing dimensions and log extraction techniques (Vanuatu Department of Forests, 1997b).

BACKGROUND

Tasmania

Tasmania is the southernmost state of Australia with a landmass of 68 049 km2 (0.9 percent of the area of Australia) and has a population of 474 000.

The current land-classification status (under the joint Federal-State Regional Forest Agreement) is as follows:

Forestry in Tasmania is a major industry, with an average annual harvest volume of 4.5 million m3 from private and public forests, generating A$1.1 billion[9] in sales and employing over 7 000 people (Forestry Tasmania 1999). Forestry Tasmania, a government enterprise, manages 1.6 million ha of state forest, including 177 000 ha in reserves and 74 000 ha of hardwood and softwood plantations (Forestry Tasmania 2000).

Vanuatu

Vanuatu is part of Melanesia, which also includes Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. It extends over 850 km in length and comprises over 100 islands, although only 14 are over 100 km2 in size. The total land area is approximately 12 270 km2. The population, primarily rural-based, is about 181 000. Vanuatu’s forest industry is small in international terms, but nationally it is quite important. The major harvesting and processing activities are in Espiritu Santo (Vanuatu Department of Forests. 1997c).

Numerous recent forestry initiatives include:

TRAINING TRENDS

Concepts

Traditional training has tended to focus on the inputs, contents and time spent at training courses rather than on what course participants could do as a result of attending such courses.

Competency-based training (CBT) and competency-based assessment (CBA) are modern training procedures that recognize prior learning or practical experience, have objective predetermined assessment criteria and clearly specified training outcomes. Operator competence is defined as possessing the necessary skills, knowledge and attitude to complete a nominated task satisfactorily using predetermined assessment criteria (usually based on industry standards).

The advantages of CBT and CBA are that:

A systematic approach to CBA involves the following steps:

Examples of Australian forest industry operator competencies

Throughout the Australian forest industry, a wide range of core and elective units of competence for various industry vocations have been developed in a collaborative manner by industry employer organizations, union movements and training providers. Comprehensive assessment manuals, outlining the units of competency and performance criteria, have been developed to assist personnel in identifying the required standards of all tasks related to particular jobs. The following competencies are representative examples of typical industry vocations:

Field units of competency include:

Harvesting supervisor units of competency include

Harvesting personnel ‘unit of competency’ include:

Assessment and accreditation methods

A variety of methods exist in Australia for individual forest operators to achieve national recognition of their competence, regardless of how they acquired those particular skills. However, assessment of these skills must be in accordance with the agreed procedures and standards. “Statements of Attainment and Qualification” are issued by registered training organizations (RTOs) if a person successfully demonstrates competence in the particular “unit of competence”.

A “Workplace-based competence assessment” of a candidate is the most common assessment method. It is a process of gathering reliable, valid evidence, by an accredited workplace assessor to indicate the candidate’s competence against agreed predetermined criteria (Australian National Training Authority, 1999). Candidates are encouraged to self-assess before actually seeking a formal competence assessment, to measure their relative progress against the assessment criteria.

Another important aspect to competency-based training and assessment is the recognition of an operator’s pre-existing skills and knowledge, which negates the need for training for training’s sake. Known as “recognition of prior learning (RPL)” and “recognition of current competence (RCC)”, operators can apply to have their skills and knowledge formally recognized if they believe they can meet the requirements of a particular unit of competency. A candidate seeking accreditation, for example, may already be an experienced tree feller/chainsaw operator and seek a tree-feller’s licence (i.e. a form of accreditation). Such a person would only need to undergo an assessment and demonstrate competence, rather than attend a formal training course. If the person successfully demonstrates competence against the agreed criteria, that person is issued an appropriate operator’s licence.

If a person is unable to demonstrate competence (i.e. fails a particular job aspect during the assessment), the deficiency (known as the training gap) can be rectified by numerous methods, including attendance of formal training courses, job rotation, on-the-job training, provision of a mentor or completion of a self-paced learning program.

TRAINING STRATEGIES

When new standards or technologies are introduced, people may have different needs, responses and levels of commitment. Four broad target groups were identified in the recent Regional Strategy for Implementing the Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting in Asia-Pacific (APFC, 2000). The discussion below focuses on the training strategies adopted for the “supervisory” and “operator” target groups in Tasmania and Vanuatu.

Tasmania

Supervisory group

Tasmania has a two-tiered system for FPOs having delegated powers and responsibilities under the 1985 Forest Practices Act.

FPO planning level

This group is responsible for preparing and approving forest practices plans (FPPs). Any forest operation (road construction, harvesting and/or regeneration) on private or public land must operate under an approved FPP. These comprehensive plans provide detailed information on:

FPO inspecting level

This second group of FPOs is responsible for monitoring all forest operations to ensure compliance with the act and FPC, and the provisions and requirements of the particular FPP.

FPO training

Preparation and administration of FPPs require high levels of training and specialist support. This training and support is provided by the Forest Practices Board, an independent organization, funded by the forest industry and government. Other specialist instructors are drawn from industry or government departments (e.g. National Parks and Wildlife Service).

FPO training is based on modular, structured courses usually conducted annually. Courses cover scientific principles, practical application sessions, assignments, detailed session notes and extensive resource information manuals (including botany, archaeology, geomorphology, geology, and landscape values). Courses are complemented by quarterly newsletters, a website, and industry seminars.

Accreditation of FPOs

Industry organizations nominate personnel to attend FPO training programs. Each person seeking accreditation must meet defined criteria including demonstrated competence by:

If an applicant has successfully demonstrated his or her competence in accordance with the Forest Practices Board’s standards, a warrant is issued, making that person a delegated FPO (either with an FPO-Planning or FPO-Inspecting status) under the Forest Practices Act. To maintain the FPO planning status, the officer must approve a minimum of two plans per year.

The system has been successful to date, primarily due to the support of the Forest Practices Board and its staff and the professional approach adopted by the appointed FPOs. About 180 industry personnel are practising FPOs involved with 1 500 FPPs per year in total.

Forest operator group training

Education and training of this group is critical, as forest operators are responsible for the execution of approved FPPs and for ensuring compliance with the practical provisions of the FPC.

An industry-training provider (Hollybank Forest Education Centre Inc.) delivers structured, nationally accredited training programs and specific training courses (e.g. on machine operation). It integrates the relevant components of the FPC into its courses.

FPOs provide informal training and education, industry newsletters, regional inspections and field days for forest operators within their respective organizations.

Accreditation of forest operators

All Tasmanian forest operators must have nationally recognized accreditation in order to carry out specific tasks (e.g. machine operation, tree-felling, log segregation). The forest practices requirements, relevant to each job, are integrated into the various training programs and assessment criteria. Industry-accredited assessors are responsible for assessing operator competence and the Tasmanian Forest Industries Training Board manages the operator accreditation scheme.

Operational auditing

To ensure maintenance of the standards required by the act and code, FPB staff or independent consultants randomly audit approximately 15 percent of all approved FPPs. Results are published in the annual report, which is presented to the Tasmanian parliament. Most industry organizations conduct monthly operational audits to monitor compliance. In addition, the introduction of environmental management systems (e.g. ISO 14001) by major industry organizations requires all forest-harvesting operators to have a heightened level of training and awareness of environmental requirements to ensure system compliance.

Breaches of the Code must be reported to the Chief Forest Practices Officer and investigated. If deemed necessary, prescribed fines can be imposed or legal action undertaken by the Forest Practices Board. However, with the emphasis on corrective action rather than penalties, prosecution is generally a last resort due to the length of time between court hearings and the actual violation and the added expenses involved in legal proceedings. A system of warnings issued by FPOs (either written or verbal) to make good any code infringement has, to date, been a very effective mechanism, especially under environmental management systems such as ISO 14000. Such warnings specify the actions to be taken and the timeframe in which they must occur.

Major code breaches or habitual offences can and will be prosecuted. On average, the Forest Practices Board successfully prosecutes three to four cases per year and imposes a range of fines (Wilkinson, 1999). Successful prosecutions in recent years primarily relate to harvesting timber without an approved FPP. Three cases resulted in fines being imposed by a magistrate ranging from A$ 3 000 to A$ 6 000 (Tasmanian Forest Practices Board, 1998).

Examples of recent fines include those assessed against a major forest owner and a cultivation contractor who were fined A$ 5 000 each for serious environmental damage resulting from failing to mark an adequate streamside reserve and attempting to conduct site preparation works when the soils were saturated. In another example, a contractor operating on private land received an A$ 2 000 fine for breaching the FPP by operating outside the harvesting boundary, harvesting inside a streamside reserve and skidding logs through a Class 3 stream. The Board considered in both instances the breaches to be serious, but recognized the cooperative attitudes and the remedial efforts to repair the damage when imposing the fines (Tasmanian Forest Practices Board, 2000).

Vanuatu

One aim of the recent bilateral Vanuatu Sustainable Forest Utilisation Project (VSFUP) was the preparation and implementation of a code of logging practice. Compliance with the VCOLP requires that all harvesting operations have an approved harvesting plan and are executed in accordance with that approved plan. Nominated industry supervisors are responsible for plan preparation and operational supervision.

Project background

Implemented in 1995, the project had numerous goals primarily aimed at improving forest management. Aspects of the VSFUP included extension activities aimed at achieving greater participation by landowners in forest management, institutional strengthening within the Department of Forests, introduction of new silvicultural prescriptions, and improvement of the industry skill base in the logging and processing sectors. In addition to the provision of computer hardware and vehicles, a wood-properties booklet was developed as a reference guide to assist in timber marketing, and a demonstration forest site on Efatewas successfully established.

Joint initiatives between the Vanuatu Department of Forests and the VSFUP included the introduction of the VCOLP, review of the current silvicultural prescriptions, development of reduced impact logging guidelines and delivery of training programs. The three main training target groups were Department of Forests technical personnel, industry supervisors and operators, and landowners interested in forest activities.

Supervisory group training

Industry and Department of Forests staff attended various modular training programs in forest planning, supervision of harvesting operations and monitoring procedures. The training courses were designed and delivered by Department of Forests staff and members of the VSFUP funded by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). The four modules were delivered over a 12-month period and coincided with the introduction of the VCOLP. Most courses lasted three to five days and covered the underlying principles and practical requirements of the VCOLP including forest-harvesting prescriptions, inventory techniques, aerial photograph interpretation, road location and construction, and tactical and operational planning procedures.

During the final module, participants, while working in small teams, had to prepare a 5-year strategic plan for a hypothetical forestry company interested in developing a sawmilling enterprise on a particular island. This task required participants to gather a wide range of information and data including inventory details, threatened species of fauna and flora, identification of archaeological sites and accessing computer databases. After assimilation of the relevant data and preparation of a detailed report, maps and tables, the strategic plan was presented formally to the Director of Forests for assessment and approval. This exercise represented the culmination and application of the wide range of skills and knowledge accumulated in the previous training modules and proved to be a very beneficial activity for the participants.

Training of forest operators

This group, primarily involved in road construction and maintenance, tree felling, log extraction and processing, is characterized by low levels of skill and literacy.

There was extensive consultation with industry to determine the most appropriate training programs. Based on the consultation, a modular, progressive approach was adopted whereby operators participated in short, formal training programs, with an emphasis on practical application and the requirements of the VCOLP and RIL guidelines (e.g. directional felling, low-impact skid track construction techniques and conservation of streamside reserves). Course lengths varied from half-day to 2-day programs with in-field follow-up by nominated trainers or Department of Forests staff.

Twenty-one modules, which were either compulsory (e.g. water and soil protection) or vocationally-specific (e.g. restoration requirements) were identified for machine operators (Table 1). Most courses were structured around theoretical principles followed by practical application in the forest.

Training was provided and assessed by a dedicated training and assessment team using a consistent curriculum. Detailed training manuals based on the agreed curriculum, complete with session objectives, session notes and supporting visual or training aids were developed to assist in providing efficient and effective training. The training and assessment team, consisting of industry and departmental staff, participated in trainer-training programs and was involved in the design of the VCOLP implementation strategy. The 6-month industry program was reviewed regularly and refined by the training team, resulting in numerous improvements in course content, structure and methods of delivery.

Table 1. Modules and expected industry participants

Number

Module

Harvesting supervisor

Roading machine operator

Forest machine operator

Tree feller

Chainsaw operator

1

VCOLP introduction

X

X

X

X

X

2

Basic harvesting planning

X

X

X

X

X

3

Silvicultural prescriptions

X

-

X

X

X

4

Exclusion zones

X

X

X

X

X

5

Water management

X

X

X

X

X

6

Watercourse definitions

X

X

X

X

X

7

Coupe harvesting planning

X

X

X

X

X

8

Field marking procedures

X

X

X

X

X

9

Road construction

X

X

O

-

-

10

Watercourse crossings

X

X

O

-

-

11

Quarry management

X

X

-

-

-

12

Log landing operations

X

-

X

O

O

13

Skid track construction

X

-

X

O

O

14

Directional felling

X

-

O

X

X

15

RIL methods

X

-

X

X

X

16

Truck loading and hauling

X

-

X

-

-

17

Wet weather limitations

X

X

X

X

X

18

Forest hygiene

X

X

X

X

X

19

Post-harvesting restoration

X

X

X

-

-

20

Supervision responsibilities

X

-

-

-

-

21

Harvesting safety

X

X

X

X

X

Accreditation

An operator accreditation scheme has been introduced to coincide with the introduction of the VCOLP and RIL guidelines. The scheme is managed by the Department of Forests and involves assessing basic operator competence, including knowledge of, and compliance with, the VCOLP. All major forest industry organizations are required to have accredited operators.

If an operator is assessed as competent (i.e. the person can complete the tasks to the required standards), an operator’s licence is issued, complete with laminated photograph, licence category and licence-issue conditions. Operators who are deemed to be “not yet competent” during the process of seeking accreditation, are required to undergo additional training in the areas identified as deficient or below the required standard and arrange re-assessment at a later date.

A penalty-points accumulation system for code breaches has been developed and operators can be fined or suspended depending on the penalty points accumulated for non-compliance or the severity of the actual breach. Examples of breaches include harvesting without an approved coupe plan and felling unmarked trees.

DEMONSTRATION FORESTS

Demonstration forests are a powerful medium to highlight the best methods, options and outcomes of sound forest practices (APFC, 2000). Such forests allow course participants to plan, carry out and audit forest harvesting. This practical learning-by-doing approach is fundamental in ensuring that the new skills and knowledge are transferred to actual work sites, thereby improving harvesting standards.

Numerous other benefits are provided by demonstration forests, including educating landowners, politicians and non-government groups, and improving scientific research.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

To improve forest-harvesting practices, a skilled and trained workforce is essential. Building such a workforce requires resources, support from all levels of management, dedicated forest supervisors, enthusiastic trainers and, above all, application of the required standards by all forest operators.

All of the above are linked intrinsically, vary in support provided from time to time and can be difficult to measure objectively. However, to achieve improved practices through training, the following recommendations are made:

GLOSSARY OF COMPETENCY-BASED TRAINING TERMS

Competence

Competency comprises the specification of the knowledge and skills, and the application of such knowledge and skill. A competent person is one who can do a particular task under operational conditions, to the standard specified, without supervision.

Site competence

The point in a person’s career where he or she has achieved all the competencies required for a reasonably effective employee.

Core competencies

These are the competencies that an organization would require most employees to achieve prior to site competence.

Key competencies

These are the particular competencies required for a defined vocation.

Skills and knowledge

These are the building blocks of competency. To achieve competency, an employee needs certain skills and knowledge. Skills are both physical and analytical.

Off-the-job component

This is the formal theory training that will be delivered by various training providers.

On-the-job component

Trainees are placed in work units where they are expected to consolidate skills learnt during the theoretical sessions and to gain experience and maturity in dealing with the daily aspects of their particular job.

Competency standards

This is a detailed job analysis document. It is divided into duties/jobs (units of competence) and tasks/competencies (elements of competence). The components of each task, the standards expected and the assessment method to be used are specified in the Competency Standards document. It is designed to assist employees to prepare for assessment and to maintain standards on the job.

Assessment and evaluation

Assessment is designed to test competency. Assessment will be by formal competency-based assessment or in some cases by a checklist. Each assessment has specific criteria and standards that must be met. Only accredited Workplace Assessors should conduct assessments.

Coaching/mentoring

Coaching/mentoring is associated closely with formal training and is delivered by peers and workplace specialists. It is about helping others, providing pointers and direction and improving the value of performance. There is a distinct difference between training and coaching.

Training

Training is the formal delivery of knowledge, and the opportunity to apply that knowledge and practice skills, in a controlled environment. Training should be delivered by accredited workplace trainers. During the training course, a candidate’s knowledge may be tested but such tests are not normally considered competency assessments.

REFERENCES

APFC. 2000. Regional strategy for implementing the Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting in Asia-Pacific. Bangkok, Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission, and Bogor, Center for International Forestry Research.

Australian National Training Authority. 1999. Forest and forest products training package: Assessment guidelines. Canberra.

Forestry Tasmania. 1999. 1998-99 Annual Report. Hobart, Forestry Tasmania.

Forestry Tasmania. 2000. 1999-2000 Annual Report. Hobart, Forestry Tasmania.

Tasmanian Forest Practice Board. 1998. Annual Report 1997-98. Hobart, Forest Practices Board.

Tasmanian Forest Practices Board. 2000. Annual Report 1999-2000. Hobart, Tasmanian Forest Practices Board.

Vanuatu Department of Forests. 1997a. Vanuatu Code of Logging Practice. Vila, Vanuatu Department of Forests.

Vanuatu Department of Forests. 1997b. Vanuatu reduced impact logging guidelines. Vila, Vanuatu Department of Forests.

Vanuatu Department of Forests. 1997c. Forest industry employment. Vila, Vanuatu Department of Forests.

Wilkinson, G. 1999. Implementing a code of forest practice - the Tasmanian experience. In: Bulai, S., H.T. Tang, K. Pouru, and B. Masianini. 2000. Proceedings of Regional Consultation on Implementation of Codes of Logging Practice and Directions for the Future. Field Document No. 3. Pacific Islands Forests and Trees Support Programme, Suva, Fiji. pp. 192-199.


[9] US$1.00= A$1.92 (May 2001).

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