Maori trainees boost skills pool for rebuild

Construction industry leaders have been urged to take note of graduates emerging from a Maori trades training programme.

Set up in 2011, He Toki ki te Rika is an initiative led by Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu with CPIT (Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology) and Hawkins Construction to train Maori for roles in the Canterbury rebuild.

Since the course began, 96 students have gone into fulltime employment and 87 have enrolled for further training. Another 141 enrolments were received this year. The programme includes courses on carpentry, welding, plumbing, painting and decorating among others.

Speaking at a breakfast hosted by Hawkins Construction at CPIT last week, the chairman of Ngai Tahu's tribal council, Sir Mark Solomon, said the programme was an important first step for many students.

"Our graduates may start as the labourers or hammer-hands, but we want them to go on and become the supervisors, the project managers, the foremen."

The earthquake should be used as an opportunity to re-create trades training in New Zealand, Solomon said. There was no shortage of young people willing to get training. "We needed that backing of industry."

Hawkins had offered their support and Solomon urged other companies to do likewise. "Without Hawkins, without you, this is not going to work."

There was now enough opportunity to see no-one unemployed in Canterbury, he said.

Hawkins has agreed to support employment opportunities for local Maori in Canterbury. Hawkins South Island regional manager Steve Taw said the industry could help increase the number of Maori entering meaningful trades careers.

"This is an initiative we should all be supporting," he said.

"We have a responsibility to provide opportunities for people in our community," Taw said. Another benefit of recruiting locally was candidates already had a support network and accommodation was not a worry. Hawkins has about three staff who have been through the He Toki programme.

There was not yet a labour shortage. When that would bite would depend on the timing of the major projects. The programme was not a "silver bullet" to avert a labour shortage but it was a step in the right direction, Taw said.


200 successful course completions since launching in 2011

96 students have gone into fulltime employment

7 students have enrolled in further training

41 enrolments this year