The Whangārei building which used to house Malletts Fashions will now be a centre to help people looking for work and Northland's economy recover from the impacts of Covid-19.

NorthTec has signed a three-year lease on the CBD building - on the corner of Bank and Cameron Sts - which will become a multipurpose venue that will not only be a digital learning hub for the polytechnic; but also home to Tai Tokerau Skills Centre Plus - Te Rua o Pūkenga.

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The centre, which will assist job hunters, will launch on June 8 and is the result of a partnership between NorthTec, Work Ready and People Potential; and is supported by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).

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NorthTec acting chief executive Wayne Jackson said the polytechnic, together with People Potential, would be able to offer a wide variety of training courses and programmes, some of which were fees-free.

"We know that the impact of the pandemic has hit some industries and individuals hard, and this initiative is designed to help people back into work," he said.

Through the centre, which has been established in response to the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, job hunters can complete a comprehensive skills assessment to determine whether they are ready for employment, or whether they need to upskill or retrain for work in a different industry.

Eru Lyndon, Ministry of Social Development regional commissioner and regional public service lead, commended the initiative.

"This is a great opportunity for Northlanders who are looking for work to upskill, retrain or find employment," he said.

Meanwhile, the centre will also be a space where NorthTec can deliver a range of programmes, and act as a digital learning space to support students who are studying online or students who may work part-time in the city and need a space to learn before, during or after work.

"It will increase our capacity for delivering learning to the people of Northland Te Tai Tokerau, and is a handy location to access for many people. It will also enable people who are out and about in the city to drop in and make inquiries about our programmes," Jackson said.

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Northland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stephen Smith said NorthChamber had long been advocates of NorthTec's presence in the city centre and was looking forward to working with NorthTec and its partners.

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