Nelson Management Ltd: Sawmill opens up career pathways for young people

From Left – Ryan Williamson, Ricky McKnight, Jamie Howieson, and Kane Sullivan say their careers at Kaituna Sawmill are rewarding

BY CATHIE BELL | PHOTOGRAPHY ANTHONY PHELPS

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Working at Kaituna Sawmill in Marlborough opens up a world of opportunities for people, workers at the mill say. Opportunities are not just available for school leavers, and sawmill staff say they are able to move up within the mill and try out a variety of roles as part of a rewarding career.

Ricky McKnight has started his apprenticeship at the sawmill, and Kane Sullivan, Ryan Williamson, and Jamie Howieson have all done apprenticeships and different jobs at the sawmill. All say they would like to see others in Marlborough and from further afield joining them at Kaituna.

Kaituna Sawmill, part of Nelson Forests Ltd, is owned by Australian company OneFortyOne.

Kane Sullivan is a maintenance engineer, who has currently stepped up to share a departmental manager’s role as Workshop Maintenance Manager.

He says he started at the sawmill in 2011 on the production line, feeding timber into a machine to be wrapped. He was on night shift and had moved from the food industry.

“It was a big change, but I adapted.”

From there, he went to a full-time day-shift job on the planer processing line, before moving into dispatch. An apprenticeship came up in the workshop in 2015, and Kane qualified eight weeks ago as a mechanical engineer.

“My biggest regret was that I didn’t do some sort of apprenticeship when I was 20,” says Kane.

He says sawmill staff are keen to develop new skill sets and widen their expertise.

“If we can have people from all types of industries coming here, that’s good. Recently, we had two engineers who are not sawmillers join the team and they’re bringing in a whole different mindset.”

Kane says there’s also nothing wrong with coming in and doing a trade apprenticeship at Kaituna and then taking that skill set elsewhere for a time, like taking a sabbatical, before returning to Kaituna.

The vision of the team is that Kaituna is seen as the top sawmill in the country and as a “must have” in a top-quality sawmiller’s CV.

“We want employers to ask someone, ‘When did you have a connection with Kaituna Sawmill?’”

Numerous job opportunities

Jamie Howieson says he heard about jobs at Kaituna Sawmill after talking to a friend’s brother at a party 16 years ago.

Jamie started stacking timber, then became a forklift driver coordinator, before completing a three-and-a-half-year apprenticeship to become a saw doctor.

Despite his trade apprenticeship being quite specialised, he’s also had the opportunity to try out working in other areas of the sawmill.

“There are quite a few different jobs at the mill. You can move around.”

He likes his job as a saw doctor and has recruited others to work at the sawmill too, like his friend’s brother.

Ryan Williamson qualified as a maintenance engineer six years ago, having done his apprenticeship at
the sawmill.

“I started here just before I turned 17. I’ve been here coming up 11 years now.

“I live locally, so I just rode my pushbike down and put in a CV and started the next day … at the time, I didn’t realise the opportunities that were here.

“I’ve done speedway and built my own race cars. I’ve always enjoyed engineering and pulling things apart. Working here gives me an opportunity to better myself and add to what I can do.

“I wouldn’t change anything about the job. It’s a very good job. The only thing that I want to do is continuously further myself and find the next step in my career.”

Helping the company grow

Ricky McKnight is six weeks into his apprenticeship and says that it’s brilliant.

“It’s really enjoyable. Everyone’s really easy to get on with.”

Ricky says he is looking forward to finishing his apprenticeship and then working his way around a few other tickets and modules.

“I want to improve on my skills and help the company grow, so I can be here for bigger and better things.

“I would recommend it here. It’s a really good place to learn. They really look after you.”

General Manager at Kaituna Sawmill Tracy Goss is encouraging people to get in touch and make the most of opportunities for trade training at the mill. “If you or someone you know might be interested in a career at Kaituna Sawmill, the time to make an enquiry is right now. Get in touch with me and we can talk to you about where an apprenticeship can lead.”

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