When you’re on that path of almost going to jail or, worse, in jail, you know you gotta make some radical changes. Life has changed for me for the better... I think, through growth, learning from past mistakes and trying to get ahead to better the future for myself and my family,” says Cruz Hobson of his job placement with FNR Forestry 2019 Ltd through the Department of Corrections. Starting there in silviculture and now cutting logs to length in an 875 Tigercat Machine for Mold Logging, he adds, “It feels good being in the bush. Time goes quick in the fresh air.”
Cruz, 29, is one of many ex-offenders who have found their way in forestry thanks to the Department of Corrections’ own recruitment service, titled This Way for Work. Though he didn’t spend time behind bars, he was on home detention on electronic monitoring for four months.
Julie Wilson, Manager Employment Services for the Department of Corrections says since November 2016, over 200 people have been placed into forestry and logging jobs, with 36 people into employment in forestry between
1 June 2021 and March 2022.
Explaining how the programme came about, she says, “We have a duty of care to people managed by Corrections in prisons and the community – not only to keep them safe and well, but also to give them every opportunity to turn their lives around.
“We know that when we give people support and assistance with employment, as well as with education, accommodation and life skills, they leave our management with a strong foundation from which they can establish a life free from crime. This reduces reoffending and keeps our communities safe.”
Since the majority of prisoners have no formal qualifications and limited education or work experience prior to coming to prison, throughout their time in custody, they are provided with educational opportunities ranging from intensive literacy and numeracy support to tertiary level qualifications. The range of qualifications covers primary industries, creative industries, construction and infrastructure, manufacturing and technology and tikanga Māori. Short courses include driver licences, first aid, health and safety, scaffolding, and forklift operation.
“Many prisoners undertake employment within prisons. We try to ensure that the skills and experience people gain during their time in prison are a good match for their employment upon release. Forestry has been one of the business-like industries operating in prisons for a long time, so it made sense to include forestry as part of the This Way for Work recruitment service when it was launched in November 2016. Along with forestry, there are over 140 business-like industries operating in prisons across the country, ranging from laundry to kitchen work to dairy farming,” says Julie.
In Cruz’s case, since he was on home detention and already had his forestry qualifications, he didn’t need to undergo training. Raised watching his father and brother fixing cars, rebuilding gearboxes was his first occupation at the age of 19.
“Fixing everyone's cars, I didn’t have time to do my own, so my brother got me into the...