05/04/2021 - 20:08 pm

Building a skilled Hawke’s Bay workforce through virtual reality

T&G Global is harnessing virtual reality technology to recruit and train Hawke’s Bay locals in positions it’s struggling to fill, particularly forklift drivers.

The company has partnered with the Whiti programme to deliver a Supply Chain Cadetship which offers job seekers a two-week comprehensive forklift training programme using the latest virtual reality (VR) training technology and upon completion, consistent employment for 11 months across T&G’s Hawke’s Bay operations.

T&G Global head of change and capability, Anna Fraser says there’s a nationwide shortage of qualified forklift drivers, making it a hot skill to have in several industries, especially horticulture.

“In the peak apple season we employ around 75 forklift operators in the Hawke’s Bay to help in our packhouses and cool stores.” Says Fraser.

“Over the past few years, we’ve struggled to hire the number of forklift operators we need, so this year we partnered with Whiti to develop and launch our Supply Chain Cadetship programme. It runs alongside our existing T&G Forklift Academy Training Programme, which already trains over 50 forklift drivers a year nationwide.

“Earlier this year, our first 14 Hawke’s Bay job seekers began the two-week intensive training programme using state of the art virtual reality forklift training technology provided by Whiti.

“By using VR technology we can replicate the physical environment so our people can be trained safely in a very immersive and realistic way. It enhances their learning experience, and importantly builds confidence, skills and experience.”

Whiti combines intensive forklift operator competency training using world-leading VR technology with more traditional work skills training and personal development work.

Andrew Stone, Whiti programme manager, says the course bridges the skills and confidence gap between employers and new entrants to forklift roles.

“We address the core work competencies a new entrant needs, especially the competency to operate a forklift. Alongside that the cadets gain confidence in themselves, their skills, and their new employment opportunity. The commitment by T&G makes a real difference.”

T&G cadet, Jack Manu’a, says the two-week training programme was a great experience.

“I never learnt so much so quickly. I thought it would be difficult to learn how to drive a forklift in a short amount of time, however we all got there in the end.”

Upon the completion of the two-week training, the trainees join T&G’s team where they gain experience and skills from different areas of the business, including machinery operation, quality control and orchard husbandry.

“I am really happy with my new job. It’s a good opportunity and I’m learning lots for the future. It’s a lot more than just forklift driving, plus there is lots of good laughs on the job too,” says Manu’a.

Fraser says kaitiakitanga guides everything at T&G Global, including this programme.

“It means we treat our land, people, produce, resources and community with the greatest respect and care, as guardians of their future.

“We want to grow our people to reach their greatest potential and give them the skills to thrive.”

T&G is still hiring for various roles in its orchards, packhouses and cool stores. To see all available jobs, please visit: www.fruitjobs.co.nz.

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