Learners we work with

Natasha Mankelow


Forestry apprenticeship graduate

“It’s never too late to start. With an education, you can do anything.” That’s the message forestry apprenticeship graduate Natasha Mankelow wants to share.

Natasha recently completed her Competenz forestry apprenticeship (Mechanised Processing); a learning journey she began when she was 37, and with three children in tow. “I left school at 15 without any credits or NZQA units. So getting those during my apprenticeship was a major achievement. I have learned and accomplished more doing an apprenticeship than throughout my entire school education!”

Natasha’s decision to embark on an apprenticeship was driven by the need to provide a more secure financial future for her children. “I was fortunate enough to be offered a trial for a position by Stephen Dewes at Dewes Contractors. There are no words to describe how grateful I am to Stephen for giving me the opportunity that kick started my career in the logging industry.”

Dewes Contractors operates a cable yarder mechanised operation harvesting forests inland from Tolaga Bay, for PF Olsen. “I had no idea what I was in for. But with the support of Competenz and crew, I progressed on the skid and groundwork to now operating the Waratah – a 40 tonne mechanised log processor. I think about the first time I got in the machine – I just about died!”

Natasha says combining study and work was manageable, especially with Competenz Account Manager Cliff Stoddart checking in regularly and an in-house assessor to track her progress. She is quick to add that her husband Aaron, who also works for Dewes, did not assess her work.

Cliff says Natasha has succeeded with the support of her family, crew, employer and through her own commitment. “She’s shown that apprenticeships are not just for new entrants to the industry,” says Cliff. “She’s a proud mum and a true professional woman of forestry – a wāhine toa.”