Virtual reality gives growers helping hand in training forklift drivers

There is currently a nationwide shortage of forklift operators.
There is currently a nationwide shortage of forklift operators. Photo credit: Supplied / T&G Global

A horticulture company facing a shortage of forklift drivers has turned to virtual reality (VR) to help train potential workers.

T&G Global has partnered with the Whiti programme to offer job seekers a comprehensive two-week training course, with the graduates subsequently going on to get consistent employment for 11 months across the company's Hawke's Bay operations. 

The programme is a response to a nationwide shortage of forklift drivers, with horticulture - already feeling the pinch from a lack of seasonal workers - among those industries crying out for qualified staff.

Anna Fraser, head of change and capability at T&G Global, says the company has struggled to hire forklift drivers for a number of years.

"In the peak apple season we employ around 75 forklift operators in the Hawke's Bay to help in our packhouses and cool stores," she said.

"By using VR technology we can replicate the physical environment so our people can be trained safely in a very immersive and realistic way. It enhances their learning experience, and importantly builds confidence, skills and experience."

One of the cadets enrolled in the programme is Jack Manu'a, He says the technology was a great way to become confident at the wheel of a forklift.

"I never learnt so much so quickly. I thought it would be difficult to learn how to drive a forklift in a short amount of time, however we all got there in the end."

The VR training is complemented by more traditional work skills training and personal development work.