Training plan cuts two ways for Otago

Peter McIntyre
Peter McIntyre
The Government's infrastructure employment scheme and associated training for tradespeople presents opportunities and threats to Otago, Otago Chamber of Commerce president Peter McIntyre says.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee announced yesterday a new training and employment programme to attract workers into trade industries needed for the rebuilding of greater Christchurch.

Run by the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team, in partnership with infrastructure training organisation InfraTrain, the scheme planned to recruit 900 new workers over the next year to assist with the reconstruction.

Through the programme, training ranging from six to 14 weeks would be provided for new entrants to industry, or on-the-job retraining for appropriate applicants.

New entrants who completed the training and met industry requirements would be guaranteed a job.

Mr McIntyre said the opportunity revolved around Otago companies being able to provide products and services to the rebuilding while remaining in the South.

"Looking at our engineering cluster, it is already sending prefabricated work further north."

As a threat, it could mean that skilled and experienced tradespeople left the region to seek work in Christchurch, he said.

"You can't blame them for that but it will create pressure points for us. Ideally, if you want work done in Dunedin, you better get it done now."

Asked whether the training programmes announced by Mr Brownlee were coming a bit late to make much of an impact on the reconstruction, Mr McIntyre said it was not a five-year or even a 10-year project. It was possibly much longer, even 20 years.

The number of apprentices needed to be increased and that could be a way of attracting more people to live in the South.

"Rather than repopulating Auckland, I hope people can see some opportunities further south - in the South Island - and move here to live," he said.

Mr Brownlee said the size of the infrastructure repair job should not be underestimated.

To date, the reconstruction team had laid 19km of freshwater pipe, 70km of wastewater pipe and 5km of stormwater pipe. About 1020km of road would need to be rebuilt, which was half of the city's urban sealed roads.

"Yet, the team is only 12% of their way through the rebuild and repair of horizontal infrastructure. This is a huge job and we will all benefit by upskilling workers to carry out the work over the next five years."

Pre-employment training programmes would be delivered by partners including the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, the Canterbury Tertiary College, Tai Poutini Polytechnic and the Salvation Army.

In a related announcement, Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce announced an extra $28 million would be spent to maintain the expanded training for trades people for the reconstruction.

Nearly $37 million had been committed from the $42 million Skills for Canterbury fund.

"It is crucial that we have sufficient skilled tradespeople trained and available to help in the rebuilding of Christchurch and this funding is an important means of increasing these numbers," Mr Joyce said.



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