Ara and Chamber of Commerce sign memorandum of understanding
A new agreement between South Canterbury businesses and Ara Institute of Canterbury could pave the way for new tertiary education options in the region.
The South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Ara on Friday, cementing a partnership that has been a year in the making.
The agreement will see Ara working more closely with the business community to meet demand for training and education in the region, which could include bolstering its provision of short and online courses.
Chamber of Commerce chief executive Wendy Smith said a lot of the work around the MOU had come about because of the demand from employers wanting to upskill their staff.
The option to do so online had been attractive for people, and that would be explored as part of the MOU, she said.
Some online business programmes were expected to be added to the Chamber's existing training portfolio, including Microsoft Word and Excel courses, she said.
"It's a little bit of a tester, if we get good engagement we might expand it."
There was strong demand for upskilling in the trade sector, and there was also demand for science based courses and food processing, Smith said.
Ara chief executive Kay Giles said a lot of work had gone into strengthening the tertiary provider's relationship with businesses following its creation at the start of the year.
The MOU was about formalising that work for a "higher level agreement", she said.
"We're committing to supporting and participating in mutually beneficial activities," she said.
"We've identified a number of short course options."
The MOU would also see the continuation of Ara's sponsorship of the South Canterbury Business Excellence Awards, and the Chamber would promote Ara's business and management courses.
"It's good to get it to this point, where it's not just an informal agreement," Giles said.
Ara had also been working with Aoraki Development and South Canterbury schools to investigate further training and provision opportunities, she said.
A bevy of new courses had been added to Ara's offerings at its Timaru campus in 2016.
That included a suite of Computing for Free programmes.
Ara computing department spokesman Peter Nock said the nature of work was changing, and nowhere was that more evident than in the prevalence of technology in almost every area of people's lives.
"As a country and as a region we need to position ourselves to make the most of the opportunities that technology offers us. To do this we need to adopt an attitude of lifelong learning," he said.
"Upskilling has become a necessity in today's professional environment. Everyone needs to know their way around a computer and some people need to acquire further skills for their particular job or to take the next step in their career."
New tourism and hospitality courses were also expected to be added across Ara's Timaru, Christchurch, and Oamaru campuses during the next 12 months.
They included a degree-level course based in Christchurch, which, once established, may offer papers in Timaru.