A training programme to support jobs and businesses in the engineering and manufacturing sector in the lower South Island has been officially launched in Balclutha today.
Economic and Regional Development Minister, Stuart Nash opened a new skills training academy established with an initial investment of $495,000 from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF).
“The Southland and Otago Regional Engineering Collective (SOREC) was established in 2020 with operational costs met by the PGF,” said Minister Nash.
“It is focused on growing the region’s manufacturing and engineering sector, including training a skilled workforce.
“The SOREC wasted no time tackling the skills shortage. It established a pilot scheme at South Otago High Schoolin January this year to help senior students learn new skills through practical experience, in a pre-apprenticeship style programme.
“The pilot scheme saw engineering businesses, schools and the Ministry of Education work together on a training programme that suits local needs. It has proved so successful that today I can confirm it will be rolled out more widely in Dunedin and Invercargill.”
He said the employment figures released this week highlighted the challenges of a growing economy.
“The 4% unemployment rate shows the economy is recovering strongly, but we also need to keep investing in education and skills training to build back better.”
“The SOREC Academy is an innovative local approach to building a skilled workforce. The Academy’s programme introduces students to a career path, provides them with foundational skills and gives them hands on experience to further develop their skills.
“The PGF has also supported 34 engineering and manufacturing businesses in Otago-Southland with grants worth $6.9 million to upgrade to more productive and efficient machinery in order to meet growing demand.
“This is a significant investment in Southland and Otago’s engineering sector, to grow businesses and train the local workforce, keeping up the momentum of recovery from the impacts of the COVID19 pandemic.”
Mr Nash also presented South Otago High School’s Head of Design and Technology, Owen Doherty, with a certificate of recognition for his efforts in establishing the Academy.
“Owen Doherty has driven this project from an academic perspective – designing the curriculum, developing plans for projects and assessment criteria, and liaising with businesses. The Academy’s development and delivery would not have been possible without Owen,” Mr Nash said.
“His commitment to the philosophy behind the Academy, and his genuine desire to prepare his students for a productive future has helped ensure its success. We are very grateful for his work.”
Mr Nash is also taking part in ceremonies to mark the start of construction at the nearby Clutha Community Hub in Balclutha. The sod-turning ceremony officially breaks ground on the multipurpose hub for community events, businesses and visitors.
“The government agreed to invest $7.4 million in the Clutha Community Hub after the Clutha District Council’s successful application for support for the ‘shovel ready’ project from the COVID Response and Recovery Fund last year.
“One of our economic priorities is to address the challenge of run-down infrastructure in our regions. The Clutha District is working hard to promote itself as an attractive place to live, work, and invest. The new Clutha Community Hub will be a vital local asset for the business and cultural sector.
“Around 120 full time equivalent jobs will be created on the project,” Mr Nash said.