100 new jobs so far from Whanganui port upgrade – 200 more expected

Posted 28 September 2022 by Moana Ellis
Whanganui Port.

Whanganui Port. Photo: LDR / Moana Ellis

Nearly 100 people have found jobs as part of the Whanganui port upgrade Te Pūwaha.

The jobs are the first of an expected 300 new jobs coming through the $50million-plus port project.

Whanganui District Employment Training Trust chief executive Sally Ross said most of the jobs so far have been in building port infrastructure and facilities, including jobs in civil construction, rock work and roading.

“As facilities are developed and new business and industry is established, this will broaden to include jobs in freight, the marine industry, engineering, manufacturing, construction and most of the trades as well as managerial and administration roles.

“Some diverse career opportunities will be coming up.”

Ross said the jobs so far have been a mix of full and part-time, contract and casual, or upskilling for existing positions in and around the port.

The Employment Training Trust is a charitable trust and one of five partners in the port project alongside Kānoa, the government’s Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit, Whanganui District Council, Horizons Regional Council, and private enterprise Q-West Boat Builders.

The Trust secured $1.5m of funding from Kānoa to establish a not-for-profit entity, Port Employment Precinct, to facilitate training development and sustainable local jobs in the port precinct, addressing skills training needs and labour supply gaps.

An example was a recent marine welding workshop, run as upskill training. Ross said it would be run again and another would be provided as an introduction to welding for rangatahi.

“Welding is a skill required in a lot of businesses around town – we’re looking to help build the pipeline of knowledge and skill to benefit not just the port, but all businesses.”

Ross said the training and jobs initiative took longer to start than anticipated but was making steady headway now.

“We go to employers and ask them what they need, then facilitate upskill training. Through providers like 100% Sweet we can also connect with rangatahi who are looking for work.”

The Port Employment Precinct also supported work readiness programmes, including developing CVs, interview skills and helping people transition into work or a new role.

More businesses were asking for help with inducting workers, particularly young people, Ross said.

“It’s about ensuring that the readiness for work is there – things like turning up on time.

“Some businesses are shying away from having young people work in their business because inducting them in seems too hard. We help with pastoral care around that as a bridge to employment.”

Ross said there was “a disconnect” between what businesses expected from workers and what workers expected from a job.

“Unemployment is at low levels – people don’t have to work where they don’t want to. If businesses want to retain their existing workforce and be at the top of the list when recruiting, they have to be smart and think outside the box. It’s not just about money, it’s about internal culture, opportunities, what’s in it for the worker and whether an organisation lives and breathes its values.

“Businesses have to be understanding of the pool and the pipeline, but the pool and the pipeline also have to be understanding of where businesses are coming from. If we want to overcome the shortages of labour, we have to be able to work together.”

The Trust has appointed a “business activator” to support Port Employment Precinct’s work as a conduit between youth, whānau, training providers, tertiary providers, government agencies, employers and iwi.

Seletar Taputoro said her new role was specifically related to the port. She will focus on connecting with employers and supporting them to upskill and retain staff, creating room for staff to grow within their organisations.

She will also work with the community of the port-side suburb of Castlecliff.

“It’s also about rangatahi – the youth of Castlecliff and their families – and being able to bridge the gaps. The employers need young people, and they want to train young people. It’s about how to connect those two.”

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ on Air