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New Rail School Opens To Meet Upgrade Spend

Media Release
8 July 2005

New Rail School Opens To Meet Government’s Promised Upgrade Spend

A serious shortage of skilled workers in the rail industry has prompted Transfield Services, the company that maintains the country’s entire rail network, to open a dedicated rail school to recruit and train people to join its rail workforce.

The NZQA-accredited New Zealand Rail School, based in Palmerston North, was opened today during a rail industry event.

Steve Webster, Transfield Services’ national rail manager said that with the government committed to spending $200 million on a much needed rail upgrade the industry needs to be prepared.

“We have estimated that for every extra $10 million a year of spending on the track, 40-50 new workers will be needed. With the current average age of our current 530 track maintenance workers sitting at 47, we are in a situation where we need more people to inject youth and skills into an industry that has an ageing workforce.

“Training and technical institutes no longer provide courses in areas such as rail maintenance so we invested significantly in establishing our own training programme to ensure there is a skilled workforce ready to take on the major job of getting New Zealand’s rail network up to scratch.”

The New Zealand Rail School will provide enormous benefits in terms of upskilling and growing the rail industry and through a partnership with Work and Income will provide jobs for the organisation’s clients.

The first intake of Palmerston North Rail School’s 25 students was made up of a combination of Work and Income clients and existing Transfield Services employees wanting to increase their skill level and gain a recognised qualification.

“We are taking people off the dole and guaranteeing them a job as a trainee track worker if they pass the course. In addition we are paying them the trainee track worker rate while they are learning in a bid to attract young or keen workers who want a career in rail,” said Mr Webster.

One of the students of the Palmerston North Rail School, 32 year old George Fry, said that this was a good opportunity to get back into the workforce and get paid to learn.

“It really helps knowing that there is a good job waiting for me at the end of the course,” said Mr Fry. “I am really excited to learn about the rail industry and to put what I learn into practice on the job.”

Director of Work and Income’s National Business Sector Unit, Stephen Cunningham, says the partnership between Work and Income and Transfield Services will provide excellent opportunities for job seekers to gain sustainable employment and for the rail industry to develop the skilled staff that they need to meet their immediate and future needs.

“It is really pleasing to see Transfield Services take such a proactive role in offering good jobs and career support for those seeking work.”

Transfield Services set up New Zealand’s first Rail School in Auckland a year ago, with the majority of students recruited through Work and Income. The Palmerston North-based New Zealand Rail School’s first intake of 25 students began the four week introduction to track maintenance course on Monday 4th July.

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