Forces joined to enhance staff skills

QRC chief executive Charlie Phillips. Photo: Mountain Scene
QRC chief executive Charlie Phillips. Photo: Mountain Scene
Queenstown Resort College has joined forces with the resort’s chamber of commerce and the Government on a pilot programme to help keep people in tourism jobs, and give them a chance to add more strings to their bows.

"Train, Retain and Regain 2021" is funded by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), and will be piloted in the Wakatipu, Te Anau and Mackenzie districts, starting on May 3.

Throughout the 26-week, part-time programme, QRC will administer and deliver the courses, probably at its Queenstown campus, but courses may be offered in the other regions if there is sufficient demand.

The MSD funding means 140 workers - 110 in full-time employment and the remainder in part-time work - can participate.

QRC chief executive Charlie Phillips would not comment on the amount of funding received from MSD, but said employees accepted into the programme who might be on a 30-hour contract would still get paid their full wage.

However, the employer would only pay for 18 of those hours, meaning they could "afford to actually commit to people because their wages will be less", with the balance topped up by MSD.

Mr Phillips said the aim was to help employers keep core staff, while providing staff with a chance to reskill in other areas of the business, and gain a qualification in an area they were keen to pursue, which was of value to the business.

The NZQA level 4 certificates included tourism operations, a leadership performance programme, and a hospitality-based programme.

Study time would be about 12 hours a week, ensuring staff were still available for work during busy periods.

"What the need for the future is, is to build capability and this takes a couple of negatives and turns it into a positive," Mr Phillips said.

"You use the down time and the uncertainty to do something productive and upskill people."

QRC ran a similar programme in Northland where staff retention was about 85%, the customer experiences "are through the roof" and the general understanding of the region increased.

"People are working with other businesses ... they get to cross-pollinate and share experiences and understand more how they fit into the eco-system of tourism, if you like, and, as a result, the delivery and customer experience goes up and the whole thing becomes more productive."

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ruth Stokes said it was "fantastic" to offer a local solution to businesses, thanks to the MSD backing.

"Even with the confirmation of a transtasman travel bubble, the nature of Covid means we will be living with business uncertainty for some time to come.

"In that environment, it is critical to provide businesses with a programme they can rely on for six months, delivered by a partner they know and trust, that will work with them to build capability and is flexible to accommodate changing business demands."

MSD industry partnerships director Amanda Nicolle said the programme would benefit the employers, employees and sector as a whole and she hoped it would increase the ability of New Zealanders to take on more skilled roles employers might normally have looked overseas to fill.

Mr Phillips: "I think it’s great.

"It’s awesome and it’s needed and it’s just a pleasure to be able to put something positive forward."

To participate, employers nominate eligible employees - either New Zealand citizens or permanent residents - for consideration.


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