Thu 10 Dec 2020

Pest Ops - more than you'd expect

What do you get up to in class? Pose this simple question to WITT’s Pest Operations students, and you might be surprised by the answers.

Trapping. Hiking. Animal biology. Nutrition and hydration. Meal planning. Survival skills. Business and engagement. Weather and climate. Connecting with local conservationists. Working with technology. Checking out emergency services including the Rescue Helicopter… and the list goes on.

The New Zealand Certificate in Pest Operations (Level 3) started at WITT in October, and students say they’re loving the new programme. Their positive attitudes, team mentality and passion for what they’re learning is hard to ignore.

“It’s so diverse,” said one student, Spence. Spence is a plumber who is now working part-time while studying Pest Operations at WITT three days a week.

Jay, a factory manager and keen hunter in his spare time, said the opportunity to study Pest Operations for free was too good to pass up.

“It’s not like going back to school,” he said. “I already loved hunting and fishing, and now I come to class and get to learn something new. I always wanted to work for Department of Conservation (DOC), so this ticks a few boxes for me.

“We’ve done some cool stuff and spent plenty of time in the bush. There have been some laughs, there have been some tears. But we all encourage each other and push each other along, and our morale has really boosted.”

Jay’s classmate Tane travels from Hawkes Bay each week for the programme. He said that while he already works in the pest control space, he’s picking up new ways to do things and learning a whole new set of skills.

“There’s so much we’re learning that’s relevant to my goal of wanting to start a business,” he said. “I am writing up a business plan at the moment. Learning to write engagement letters, how to sell our services to DOC, council or iwi, and assess the health of the forest - it’s all valuable stuff.”

Arielle enrolled in Pest Operations after a career quiz suggested that Ranger was an occupation that aligns with her interests and values.

“I read more about becoming a ranger, and the idea of enhancing and maintaining our landscape jumped out at me. I want to serve something bigger than myself, and the community side of conservation is what stood out. Working together with DOC and iwi, that’s my drive.”

Tutor Daniel Waterson said the group are working closely with local organisations and key people, giving students a true to life experience. 

“Taranaki Regional Council’s Chauncy Ardell leads the Towards a Predator Free Taranaki project – the biggest of its kind in New Zealand. He’s been showing us the ropes and we’re working with him setting up traps. We’ve also been working alongside local rangers from the Department of Conservation.

“We’ve been given our own trap line to monitor, so we’re out there every couple of weeks.”

There are 3,300 traps in Taranaki, along walkways and beaches, as well as around Taranaki Mounga.  The group say that finding a trap empty is bittersweet – most importantly it’s a sign that the predator-free initiative in Taranaki is working.

Each student is getting something different out of the programme, and their reasons for getting into it are just as diverse. Being outdoors, getting free training, building confidence and finding sustainable work are all mentioned.

“There’s a regional need,” Cherie said. “For me it’s something that I can stick around in Taranaki for, and know there’s employment.”

“We might not all want to be pest controllers after this, but we’re all getting good experiences,” Theo said. “And everyone here has their Level 3 Comprehensive First Aid Certificate now!”

What advice would these students give to anyone thinking of enrolling for the next intake?

“If people knew how good it was, you’d have heaps of classes full,” Jay said.

“Just do it, you won’t regret it,” Theo adds.

The rest of the class laugh as they chime in: “Just get fit first!”

The New Zealand Certificate in Pest Operations (Level 3) is funded by the TTAF, so learners can study this programme (and others), for free. WITT’s next intake is in March 2021. Find out more here.