Big surplus expected as Ara Institue of Canterbury ends 2016 on a high note

Ara Institute of Canterbury chief executive Kay Giles.
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Ara Institute of Canterbury chief executive Kay Giles.

South Canterbury's tertiary institution was expecting to wrap up its first year of operation with a larger than expected surplus.

Despite enrolments in flagship South Canterbury programmes falling well short of the mark, Ara Institute of Canterbury chief executive Kay Giles was expecting a strong end to 2016.

It comes as the polytechnic prepares to enters its second year, in which the future of its campuses and programmes are expected to become clearer.

When asked to giver her assessment of how Ara's first year had gone, Giles said she was generally pretty happy.

"I think we've made a good start, but we also recognise we've got a lot more to do.

"There are a lot more opportunities we need to investigate and get underway."

Ara would produce a surplus, and one that was likely to be more than expected, she said.

"We will be investing in things.

"Our financial position is extremely sound."

Financial statements discussed at Ara's November council meeting show a surplus of $35,144,334 had been budgeted for 2016.

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As of October 31 its year to date surplus budget was $43,236,022, provided payments such as insurance settlements were received.

While Giles was pleased with Ara's inaugural year, there had been some challenges around doing all of the "new organisation stuff".

"Identifying what the training needs are, getting the right staff, the right skills, the right capabilities.

"It's a bit of a jigsaw."

Part of that jigsaw was determining the right mix of programmes and budgeting for demand.

One of Ara's big drawcards in South Canterbury, its primary industries programme, has failed to meet enrolment targets by a significant margin.

As at October 31, there were 92 enrolments against a budget of 200.

Earlier in the year, Giles acknowledged there had been a "pretty clear mis-estimate" of the demand for the primary industry courses.

There was work going on to assess the needs of the sector, she said.

"We've had a couple of external consultants looking at the opportunities there.

"We've definitely got some ideas."

However, strong performances in other subject areas such as hospitality and the humanities had helped to make up the shortfall.

Determining course demands was also part of a big piece of work around Ara's campuses.

The campus redevelopment project was nearing completion, and a report was expected early in the year.

That would include South Canterbury campuses such as the training farm at Washdyke.

Equipment such as motorbikes and tractors were being reviewed, as were the buildings.

Another big challenge for the fledgling institution was building links with the community and local businesses.

"We've really started to engage with the community as Ara, while we've been building our portfolios," Giles said.

"We're working very closely with Aoraki Development."

Formal agreements were also starting to emerge as 2016 drew to a close.

The South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Ara in December, cementing a partnership that had 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.

 - Stuff

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