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Tai Poutini Polytech saving more lives

Tai Poutini Polytech saving more lives

Tai Poutini Polytechnic is churning out record numbers of search and rescue graduates who are saving lives around New Zealand.

The West Coast tertiary base is the only polytech of its kind in New Zealand which runs the course, with the backing of Search and Rescue New Zealand.

A total of 148 students went through the latest course.

``It would be fair to say we are saving lives,’’ Tai Poutini Polytech chief executive Don Campbell said today.

``This is the biggest search and rescue graduate course in New Zealand and we believe we can make a difference. Search and Rescue is a critical service to helping find and rescue lost trampers, mountaineers and other members of the public.’’

The polytech at Greymouth is on the doorstep of the Southern Alps and is regarded as the fastest growing tertiary institution in New Zealand.

Its annual report just released shows more a doubling in equivalent full time students (EFTS) in the last year to 2136 and Mr Campbell expects that figure to growing to almost 3000 this year.

Tai Poutini trebled its surplus to $2.5 million on an income of $16 million. They have reduced the average costs per EFTS from $9326 four years ago to $6389.

Over the last 18 months, Tai Poutini has been working with the Search and Rescue Industry in New Zealand to develop a nationally recognised qualification for search and rescue volunteers.

Response to the training has been overwhelming with in excess of 1200 search volunteers enrolled on the programme.

The West Coast Polytech also leads the way in providing nationwide training for scaffolders.

They have opened a pre-employment course in Auckland in an effort to keep abreast of training needs in a buoyant construction industry.

Over the past five years more than 1200 trainees have gained their national certificate in scaffolding at Tai Poutini.

A leading scaffolding industry employer Laurie Sayers said part of Tai Poutini’s success was ``their ability to take the class to the trainees, while maintaining a close relationship with industry".

The polytech employs hundreds of Auckland students, many of who have been through the scaffolding course, only to return as graduate scaffolders to help shape Auckland's high rise.

Their big construction operations programme at the Reefton campus has also reaped significant rewards.

``This programme was developed after requests from interested industry groups who recognised there was a chronic shortage of trained personnel entering the workforce,’’ Campbell said.

There has been considerable support from both the works and mining industry throughout the South Island and most of the graduates get jobs.

``One woman graduate who is now working on a mine site driving haul trucks ranging in sizes from 40 - 100 tonne and at other times she is called upon to operate the 30 tonne excavator.

``We are also helping reduce the country’s level of unemployment with our construction course. ``We had people who had been on the dole for six or seven years who joined the course, learned construction skills and are now working for business earning good money,’’ Campbell said.

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