The Australian Timber Trainers Association (ATTA) is a national network of trainers and assessors in the forest and forest products industry. Members come from all states and territories in Australia, and represent private registered training organisations, TAFE colleges, partnerships and industry consultancies.
Australian Timber Trainers Association
ATTA has been holding annual workshops since 1992. Each year the workshop is held in a different capital city or regional centre with strong ties to the timber industry. The purpose of the workshop is to bring together industry trainers and assessors so they can share their experiences, validate their assessment processes, and hear presentations from a range of industry experts and government agencies. It is also an opportunity to see local industry sights in various field excursions, and gain a better understanding of the issues in that region.
In recent years, ATTA has invited ForestWorks, the Industry Skills Council, to address the attendees and hold consultation sessions on Day 1 of the conference. Participants discuss the make-up of the competencies, suggest improvements, and talk about many other issues relating to accredited training in the industry.
But such a well-organised consultative approach has not always been the way for the industry’s trainers.
In the 1980s, the harvesting sector was grappling with new standards that were being implemented in an attempt to reduce the high accident rate among forest workers. Chainsaw instructors, in particular, were at the forefront of the push to improve work practices and standardise training strategies.
After several fiery meetings between instructors around the country on how to develop best practice standards, a small group decided that the only way to get a consensus among these passionate protagonists was to set up a formal association. This would allow the debate to be controlled by rules and regulations, and proper methods for getting people to agree with each other without challenging them to ‘step outside’.
That was in 1991, and by the following year the Australian Timber Trainers Association Limited was formed, with an opening membership of about 30 people.
From the beginning, Stihl was the association’s major sponsor, and the company took a strong interest in getting members’ views on what was causing chainsaw accidents and how cutting techniques could be improved to reduce the risks to operators. By workshopping the various approaches the instructors were using with their learners, different chainsaw techniques and training strategies were able to be compared and analysed, so that everyone could learn from each other and develop an ‘industry endorsed’ approach to the task.
Since then, ATTA’s membership and focus have grown to include other sectors of the industry; in particular, forest growing and management, sawmilling and processing, and timber manufactured products. Hitachi Construction Machinery has also become a sponsor, as well as some smaller businesses with close connections to the industry.
Now that ATTA has taken on the role of ‘national training provider network’, the association is entering a new period of growth. Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) are able to discuss issues at a management level and be represented as a collective voice to government bodies and Industry Skills Councils on matters of concern.
However, at its core, ATTA’s central values remain unchanged. It is still a network of individuals and training providers who share the common goal of looking for ways to improve the way training is carried out in the timber industry, and promote the use of safe, efficient and environmentally sound work practices.