A new initiative aims to steer people into training for port-related jobs as part of Te Pūwaha, Whanganui's Port revitalisation project.
The Port Employment Precinct (PEP) is a significant component of Te Pūwaha and is headed by operations manager Craig Garner who has been in the role since October.
Garner said the PEP had an emphasis on employment and upskilling local people.
"In particular those in the Castlecliff community, and creating pathways to sustained local employment is the priority," he said.
"Youth and those currently unemployed are valuable resources to fill a widening skills gap and increased job vacancies."
PEP will be governed by the Whanganui District Employment Training Trust and supports Te Pūwaha by facilitating on the job and classroom-based training.
It has moved into The Backhouse on Taupō Quay alongside Te Manu Atatū (Whanganui Māori Business Network), 100% Sweet and Whanganui Chamber of Commerce.
Garner is working in collaboration with 100% Sweet, which delivers an in-school work-ready programme targeting those who are about to finish secondary education and head into the workforce.
The training trust secured $1.5 million in funding from Kānoa – the regional economic development and Investment unit of the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment - to contribute to addressing skill and labour supply gaps in the region.
The funding was provided through Te Ara Mahi, a programme that aims to address long-term barriers to employment and provide pathways to education and skills training.
"Te Ara Mahi benefits the whole community by supporting a sustainable business environment and quality jobs," Garner said.
"The PEP, in partnership with iwi, councils, business and community representing Te Pūwaha, identify and collaborate with initiatives that facilitate current and future employment demands related to Te Pūwaha project outcomes and port-related career pathways.
"This requires an assessment of future roles, skills gaps, training needs and human resourcing required to meet expected demand during and post the port revitalisation project."
Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall said the work followed previous work done by Q-West's Myles Fothergill and the late Robert Bartley to build a skilled local workforce.
"Although the port is the key part there is great potential for people to gain a lot of transferrable skills," McDouall said.
"There has been a very clear imperative from the government to build on these kinds of capabilities and it is a great opportunity for mid-New Zealand to build a local workforce that previously required bringing people in from overseas."
Garner also said the initiative would introduce skills applicable and transferable to a variety of industries and benefit the broader economy and local capability.
"The funding will also enhance vocational (on-the-job) education opportunities and businesses can continue to upskill their workers."
"Whanganui has excellent primary and secondary education options, which is valuable to young families, and plenty of tertiary and trades training options for those seeking careers locally.
"The PEP is not a competitor to other training providers but can provide valuable work-ready training, including inductions and work experience opportunities."
Garner said identifying skills gaps and cross-industry training opportunities would be an ongoing challenge and opportunity to better support local and national education strategies.
"One of Whanganui's strengths is its diverse and progressive business sector that is motivated about success," he said.
"Nationally, an ageing workforce, closed international borders, and large-scale infrastructure initiatives mean skilled and labour workers are in high demand."
The total investment in Te Pūwaha is over $50m, with the infrastructure works carried out over three phases.
This includes a $26.75m investment managed by Kanoa – Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit, with the remaining cost and resources covered by Whanganui District Council, Horizons Regional Council, Q-West Boat Builders, and the Whanganui District Employment Training Trust.