Colin Mitchell touring Q-West with students and Ron Armstrong of 100 percent sweet

Pilot Pre Trade Programme the right fit for local rangatahi

A group of motivated young rangatahi recently completed the first half of the Port Employment Precinct’s (PEP) Pre-Trade Programme, visiting Q-West Boat Builders and observing their team in action first-hand.

The pilot Pre Trade Training Programme has been established to provide qualifications and work experience in the civil infrastructure industry for year 12 and 13 students. The aim is to support rangatahi as they explore career options in Whanganui, with a particular focus on the port revitalisation project - Te Pūwaha.

The PEP was established when Whanganui District Employment Training Trust (WDETT) secured a $1.5 million grant from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), administered by Kānoa – Regional Economic 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.  

“When establishing this programme we realised there was a gap in the market,” says Seletar Taputoro of the Port Employment Precinct.

“Schools are providing programmes in agriculture, building and even the likes of hairdressing, however civil infrastructure was being missed.”

“Heads Road is the industrial heart of our city and when you talk to those businesses they are crying out for new employees, and yet are struggling to find candidates with suitable qualifications.

“On top of that, with the advent of such a large construction project like the port development, it became clear there are not enough young people being exposed to this type of industry.”

Of the 16 week programme, 12 weeks have been delivered by Whanganui based Axiom Training, covering aspects including forklift driving, loading and unloading a goods vehicle, and using a safety harness when working at heights. A further four weeks focuses on understanding Te Awa Tupua and Te Pūwaha, visiting local businesses and creating CVs.

“The aim of the programme is to bring through skilled, passionate and informed young people who are ready to hit the ground running,” says Seletar.

“Our goal is to give them practical skills, setting them up for potential future careers and pathways, making them incredibly employable, whether it’s a weekend job while still at school, or their first full time job when they leave.”

“Visiting businesses like Q-West is the icing on the cake, they can explore related industries and realise that the training they are doing right now, will set them up for further career pathways and opportunities.”

The course is funded by the Port Employment Precinct and is specifically for rangatahi based in Castlecliff aged over 16, with students from Te Kura o Kokohuia, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Tupoho, Whanganui City College and Cullinane College currently attending.

Te Pūwaha project director Hayden Turoa feels the timing couldn’t be better for the Pre-Trade Programme to get off the ground, with the wharf rebuild set to commence in the next few months.

“The purpose of Te Pūwaha is to create abundance, abundance for Mouri Ora, Mouri Awa and Mouri Tangata - our environment, our awa and the communities of Te Awa Tupua,” he says.

“The Pilot Pre Trade Programme is a practical implication of this, as it has a special focus on working with these rangatahi to enrich not only their lives but also of their whānau, now and in the future.”

“The PEP are providing them opportunities and choices that in many cases, they previously haven’t been exposed to.”

While the PEP have provided funding for this year, they are sourcing funding for 2024 as schools and businesses have indicated a desire for the programme to continue.

In the meantime, the next instalment of the PEP’s Fast Track Programme, catering for those looking for a career change or to upskill in civil infrastructure is set to return in August. Details on how to apply will be shared in the coming weeks.

Students from Whanganui City College and Te Kura o Kokohuia with Colin Mitchell, Q-West Chief Executive