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Investment in trade training critical to Canterbury rebuild

Investment in trade training critical to Canterbury rebuild

Labour Leader Phil Goff is calling on the Government to take immediate action to get people into training for trades like building, plumbing, plastering and drain-laying so we have the skilled workforce needed to rebuild Canterbury.

"This is a critical issue. It cannot be ignored. The Government must act now to build an army of workers with the right mix of skills to rebuild the devastated Canterbury region, including the tens of thousands of homes, schools and businesses that have been destroyed or damaged.

"If action is not taken, we will face a skills shortage in 12-18 months' time that will cripple the rebuild effort, cause significant delays and push up the cost of construction.

"The industry also must be given the confidence and certainty it needs to take on trainees and workers," said Phil Goff.

"This is a time for active government. The Government must provide the industry with clear projections about the scale of construction work that will be needed and the skills required.

"The Government must also ensure that Canterbury businesses get the first bite of any construction work that is going, as long as their bids are competitive. At present, the industry is retrenching and local companies are continuing to face liquidity problems because of the recession and delays in reconstruction after the September 4 earthquake.

"It's important that rebuilding starts as quickly as possible to keep them and the local economy afloat," said Phil Goff.

"Funds must also flow quickly from insurers and the Earthquake Commission to businesses that are undertaking the work. We don't want businesses that are already under financial pressure to fail simply because they're not being paid on time.

"Industry leaders tell me that the pool of skilled labour has been shrinking throughout the country. The industry has been downsizing with layoffs increasing over the last couple of months," said Phil Goff. "Even before the latest quake, it was estimated there would be a shortfall of a thousand building tradespeople by 2013. That demand will be even stronger now.

"Boosting the number of skilled workers is necessary not only for Canterbury but also to meet the growing housing shortage crisis in Auckland, the expected increased demand to repair leaky buildings and the loss of many qualified tradespeople lured to Australia by higher pay packets."

The Labour leader says the Government should lift the cap on building trades students at institutions like the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology. It should also promote accelerated, intensive courses in building and construction trade training, including apprenticeships.

"CPIT has the capacity to take on more students and increase trade training. We want to target school leavers, those who are unemployed and those who may be made redundant in the coming months - to give them an opportunity to forge a new career that will benefit them and the economy.

"Immediate action is needed to meet the rapid growth in the Canterbury region when the rebuild gets underway. If this does not happen, there will be an avoidable crisis and delays in meeting housing needs along with higher costs which is the last thing people in Christchurch need as they recover from the earthquake."

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