New opportunities spring from pre-Covid work

New hospital project .. .Contractors demolish the former Cadbury Warehouse, which borders Castle, Cumberland and St Andrews Sts, in central Dunedin yesterday. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

Column: A word from . . . Enterprise Dunedin director John Christie.

Otago had a challenge last year _ how to meet significant demand for skilled tradespeople from the many planned $20 million-plus construction projects.

Back then, meeting that challenge included paying for research to find out how many people needed to be trained and ways that training could take place. I mentioned in this column that it could lead to opportunities for locals to become part of an industry offering long-term, homegrown employment.

With Covid-19, circumstances have obviously changed, but the opportunities remain, especially given last week’s Government Budget announcement, which includes $1.6 billion for trades and apprenticeships training and $3 billion for infrastructure investment and an 8000 public house build programme to boost productivity and create jobs.

Now, the partners who backed last year’s research are finding out how many of those $20 million-plus projects are still going ahead, adding in “shovel-ready” projects funded by local and central government investment and updating the data around how many skilled tradespeople will be needed. (Those partners are the Ministry of Social Development, Ngai Tahu, Dunedin City Council, Otago Southland Employers Association, the Otago Chamber of Commerce, and all economic development agencies in Otago, supported with Provincial Growth Fund backing. The research is being done by the Building Construction Industry Training Organisation, Infometrics and Martin Jenkins.)

How will this help Dunedin and the region’s people hit by unemployment?

It will provide the training programmes which support people into construction jobs with information about the timing and size of demand for skilled workers so they can prepare and deliver.

Locals can make the most of construction industry opportunities because Dunedin has strong tertiary institutions to provide the necessary training. Our close-knit city also has the practical co-operation between education, industry and local government organisations required to make things happen.

Last week’s Budget also included additional investment for entrepreneurs and small-medium enterprises, which may help build Dunedin’s rich ecosystem of transformational businesses supported through organisations such as Petridish and Innov8HQ and the Start Up Dunedin Trust.

The Grow Dunedin Partnership (DCC, Kai Tahu, University of Otago, Otago Polytechnic, Otago Southland Employers’ Association, Otago Chamber of Commerce) has funded and supported start-up activities over a number of years. This, along with investment by the private sector and strengths of existing innovative businesses in the city, has seen increased opportunities in “weightless” sectors such as film, technology, health and digital gaming. Their growth will allow the city to diversify beyond its traditional strengths, increasing our economic resilience and making our recovery stronger.