A $1.6 billion trades training and apprenticeships package could provide a boost to the Whanganui labour force post-Covid-19, and tertiary education provider UCOL is set to investigate opportunities.

The Government's trades and apprenticeships training package was announced in this month's Budget, providing an opportunity for UCOL to play an increasing role in training more people into skilled jobs and supporting businesses post-Covid-19, UCOL chief of operations Dr Linda Sissons said.

UCOL has set up a team to look at the details of the package and work with industries, employers and government agencies in Whanganui, Manawatū, Horowhenua and Wairarapa to identify employment and training gaps and opportunities. It will work with local industries and employers to ensure initiatives under the training package meet their labour force needs.

UCOL chief of operations Dr Linda Sissons. Photo / Supplied
UCOL chief of operations Dr Linda Sissons. Photo / Supplied

Sissons said UCOL would work alongside industry training organisations, the new Workforce Development Councils, iwi and the Ministry of Social Development as well as economic development agencies.

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"We want to work with them as we go through this pandemic, to understand what the employment opportunities are expected to be in the next six, 12, 24 months and plan accordingly," Sissons said.

"All initiatives must have strong employment outcomes and boost opportunities for our local people, including those whose jobs have been affected by the pandemic.

"This package potentially gives more people in our region the opportunity to train into jobs where there are skills shortages. We are keen to develop new programmes in areas such as logistics, infrastructure and transport, plumbing and gas fitting, for example.

"The training could include a mix of on-the-job, online and face-to-face teaching, for a number of weeks, months or years depending on the nature of the skills required. We are flexible in our approach to designing what is needed, and will develop or acquire products that meet the needs identified."

The training could, for example, boost the labour force required for the Future of Rail strategy which includes provision for maintenance and renewal of the rail network (passenger and freight), Sissons said. Expected benefits to the regions include more skilled people available, more employment, and a reduction in regional unemployment.

Early figures indicate the polytechnic sector as a whole could experience short-term growth in 2021 and 2022. The offer of no fees, and fees-free trades training would enable people who might be considering changing jobs to gain new skills, Sissons said.

The package gave UCOL the potential to increase capacity and broaden programmes to meet the needs of regional industries, she said.