Ara Institute of Canterbury assessor Mick Cooke in Tonga checking carpentry skills.
Ara Institute of Canterbury is playing a key role in a pilot project to bring Pacific Island tradespeople to help in the Canterbury rebuild.
The aim of the project is to give Pacific Islanders the opportunity to earn good wages, and gain additional experience and qualifications which can then be taken back to benefit their home countries. Tonga, Fiji and Samoa are the three countries currently involved in the project.
"Although there were a lot of tradespeople coming to Christchurch from Europe for the rebuild, very few are coming from the Pacific Islands, so this project is designed to encourage Pacific Islanders to come here," Ara Manager for the Centre for Assessment of Prior Learning (CAPL) Dave Dixon says.
The project is a partnership between the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Pacific Trust Canterbury and local Christchurch companies Tradestaff and Adecco.
Ara is involved in two key tasks for the project Dixon says.
"Initially we are evaluating the skills of potential tradespeople in each of the islands and will then provide workplace assessment once they arrive in New Zealand to award credit towards the National Certificate in Carpentry. They will then have the opportunity to gain further training in order to complete their carpentry qualification."
Ara's CAPL, working with a team from the Trades Department, developed a series of criteria for evaluating the skills of potential workers including English language ability, health and safety knowledge, experience, qualifications and equipment usage.
"After developing a short list, a team will then be sent out to each Pacific Island nation participating in the project to evaluate their skills in person. The results will then be passed on to companies who will offer the best candidates employment in the Canterbury rebuild."
In order to ensure the experience is positive and beneficial for the workers Pacific Trust Canterbury will be responsible for pastoral care of the Pacific Islanders which will include airport transfers, accommodation assistance and transport to and from work. Tradestaff and Adecco have guaranteed that they will provide the tradies with a minimum four days (or 30 hours) of work each week.
The project is being promoted heavily in the Pacific Islands by the participating governments who see it as an excellent opportunity to improve the economic and living conditions at home.
Interest in the Pacific Islands among tradies is high with over 150 applications being received from Tonga, Fiji and Samoa for an initial 24 positions.
Trades training is offered through the Pacific Islands by the Australia Pacific Technical College and some of the applicants are fully qualified or have partial qualifications. The current project will give qualified tradespeople greater opportunities to use their skills, while unqualified tradies will be upskilled with New Zealand experience.
These initiatives are being developed in the context of negotiations known as PACER Plus (Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations), which aims to foster economic integration in support of sustainable economic development in the Pacific.