From the Fast Track to full time employment - Jono Whitaker and Arasi Filo

From the Fast Track to full time employment

Tasked with supporting local people to upskill and obtain employment in local jobs, the Port Employment Precinct (PEP) is seeing success, thanks to their Fast Track programme.

The PEP was established when the Whanganui District Employment Training Trust (WDETT) secured a $1.5 million grant from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) in 2020, as administered by Kānoa – Regional Economic and Development and Investment Unit, to contribute to resolving skill and labour gaps in the region. The funding was provided through Te Ara Mahi, a programme which aims to address long-term barriers to employment and provide pathways to education and skills training.

Over the past twelve months, the Fast Track programme has completed four intakes, providing participants with a range of skills and experience on an accelerated four week programme, so they can kick start their careers.

PEP business pathways activator, Seletar Taputoro is thankful for the large number of local businesses who have been hugely supportive of the programme.

“We have got the likes of Loaders, Concrete Structures, Barred Up Scaffolding, Waters and Farr, Graham Civil Contractors and W&W Construction all inviting participants in to their workplaces, so they can get a real taster for the career opportunities this course presents.”

Each intake accepts up to eight participants, with seven recently completing Fast Track 4.0. All gained work experience with local businesses while on the course. These work experience opportunities have proved invaluable with one moving on to full time work at Concrete Structures and one offered a placement at Tupoho Toi Tu te mahi for construction. Two others completed the Fast Track in 2023 and have gained full time employment with Graham Civil Contractors (GCC), with one (Mau Pakai) receiving the GCC MVP recognition employee award.

An excellent example of a Fast Track participant taking on the opportunities the programme presented to them is Arasi Filo. Arasi was a member of Fast Track 1.0, and upon completion, he moved to Australia to play Rugby League. He recently returned to Whanganui to look for employment, possibly a career.

Earlier this year, Concrete Structures advertised for three entry level civil positions. They reached out to the PEP to see if they knew of any potential candidates. The PEP contacted Arasi to see if he would like to take up an opportunity for work experience at Concrete Structures, to see if he and another Fast Track participant would be suitable for the job.

Following his work experience, Arasi has been offered a full time role with Concrete Structures, with both employer and employee thrilled with the appointment.

“Concrete Structures have taken great care with those who have carried out work experience with them. They made sure Arasi and others felt welcomed, and had interesting and challenging work to complete,” says Seletar Taputoro.

“Arasi particularly enjoyed working alongside Senior Site Supervisor Jono Whitaker, who has provided him with invaluable guidance.”

Equally, Concrete Structures have found real value in the Fast Track programme and the work experience opportunity.

“By providing the opportunity to bring people in for work experience on our site, both parties have time to determine whether the job and what it entails will be a suitable fit for both career aspirations and project completion,” says Concrete Structures spokesperson Anna Whitaker.  

“With Arasi, we were impressed by his work ethic, communication and desire to be at work. He would arrive early each day and offer to stay behind until late just to finish a job.”

“We received a large number of applicants when we advertised earlier this year, but the skills Arasi brought with him from Fast Track, paired with his dedication and commitment during work experience, certainly set him apart.”

“The relationships between not only PEP and Concrete Structures, but other businesses as well, will be beneficial as we look to support local people to upskill and obtain employment,” says Seletar Taputoro.

The PEP are currently advertising for participants to register for Fast Track 5.0 which is set to commence in June this year. Further information on the programme can be found by emailing

Jono Whitaker and Arasi Filo