Heavy transport workers in demand

On the road to automotive careers are (from left) Otago Polytechnic pre-trades students Matt Fisk (20), Cameron Johnston (17) and Harry Granger (17), pictured yesterday with their tutor Murray Hosking (front). Photo: Gregor Richardson
On the road to automotive careers are (from left) Otago Polytechnic pre-trades students Matt Fisk (20), Cameron Johnston (17) and Harry Granger (17), pictured yesterday with their tutor Murray Hosking (front). Photo: Gregor Richardson
New automotive courses offered by Otago Polytechnic should help address a nationwide dearth of both drivers and repair technicians, the polytechnic and industry representatives say.

Road Freight Transport career pathways manager Steve Divers said there was a shortage of 2800 class 5 drivers - who can drive a vehicle train of 25 tonnes or more - across the country every year.

Otago Polytechnic automotive programme manager Hamish Miller said there was also a ''huge shortage'' of repair technicians.

Otago Polytechnic has announced a level 4 certificate in heavy automotive engineering will be added next semester.

A heavy transport driver's licence will also be added to the polytechnic's offerings from this September, and the polytechnic will expand its New Zealand certificate in automotive engineering (level 3) (pre-trade) programme to include heavy automotive engineering.

About 64 students are involved in the course this year.

Mr Divers said many companies did not even bother to advertise for heavy truck drivers, due to the shortage, which was prevalent during peak seasons.

''Transport companies don't access migrant labour as a rule, as the preference is always to employ local people,'' Mr Divers said.

''A key issue underpinning the shortage is the lack of young people with full car licences at the time they leave secondary education. We have been working with government to correct this, so more to come in this space.''

For heavy truck drivers, automotive engineering qualifications were complementary and allowed for a dual pathway into a career.

Skills obtained in heavy automotive engineering were adaptable to marine and rail industries, which historically were very apparent in Otago.

''Once upon a time, we would have relied upon Hillside workshops and the railways to produce new engineers. This, sadly, is no longer the case.''

Automotive engineering course tutor Murray Hosking said he was ''really excited'' by the addition of the courses, and Mr  Miller said heavy automotive engineering offerings would tie into the polytechnic's existing automotive apprenticeship pathway.

The polytechnic was working with local businesses including Cooke Howlison Trucks, and Dynes Transport.

elena.mcphee@odt.co.nz

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