19 October 2023

Snowy Valleys saw doctors to turn their hands to teaching

| Edwina Mason
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two men standing behind a giant timber saw

Josh Molkentin and Fred Dean are preparing to train a new generation of saw doctors at the Tumut TAFE campus. Photo: TAFE NSW.

Forestry training in the Snow Valleys has been further strengthened by the recruitment of two new saw-doctoring specialist teachers at Tumut’s TAFE college.

Josh Molkentin and Fred Dean, who work as saw doctors in the local timber industry, have recently begun roles as saw technology teachers at TAFE NSW Tumut.

Saw doctors repair, set and sharpen blades for circular, band and other saws.

This specialised field will see them dismantling precision instruments, repairing and replacing defective parts, or reassembling articles using hand and power tools and specially designed machines.

The towns of Tumut and Tumbarumba are home to a global forestry industry, with nearly 18 per cent of the region’s workforce employed in the sector.

The economic impact of timber in the NSW South West Slopes was found, in a 2017 study, to be stronger than tourism in the Snowy Mountains, including the ski fields, and farm gate agriculture from Wagga to Albury, combined.

READ ALSO First trainload of timber arrives to support Snowy Region mills

Someone who knows a bit about that is Mr Molkentin, 48, who is a born-and-bred local.

He will now straddle his role as head saw doctor at Hyne Timber’s Tumbarumba Mill with his new teaching duties.

“It’s all about career progression for me and sharing my expertise with the next generation of saw doctors,” he said.

“What I love about TAFE NSW is that the course is practical and gives students a chance to just get in and do it.”

Mr Dean is a saw doctor at Associated Kiln Driers (AKD) in Tumut and he is also set to share his time between the workshop and the classroom.

Both new teachers were recruited under the innovative Paid to Learn program, which aims to fast-track and support industry professionals as they transition into teaching at TAFE NSW, paying them a wage while they complete their training.

TAFE NSW Tumut’s Forestry Training Centre is one of only two training organisations nationally to offer forestry, drawing students from across Australia.

Saw doctors are an irreplaceable part of the timber industry, repairing, setting and sharpening saw blades for timber production.

The local timber industry is still recovering from the disastrous 2019-2020 bushfires, which devastated more than a third of the region’s commercial forestry plantation area.

Forest Industry Council executive officer Dallas Goldspink welcomed the new TAFE NSW forestry teachers and said they would play a critical role in providing a skilled workforce for local mills.

READ ALSO Snowy Valleys timber industry to benefit from fee-free training

“Forestry is so diverse and there are so many different pathways for young people to build a career,” Mr Goldspink said.

“We really need that pipeline of new workers coming through and TAFE NSW Tumut is the ideal training facility to provide that.”

Both teachers are currently working under supervision and will start full duties in February 2024.

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