Downer Basics Civil Apprenticeship Programme created by WDA offers industry qualifications and job opportunities to the Waikato district community.

An apprenticeship programme in the Waikato District is playing its part to address the skills shortage in the New Zealand roading industry following the graduation of its first intake last month.


A partnership between Downer, Waikato Tainui and the Ministry of Social Development has resulted in 10 previously unemployed members of the community gaining a qualification and employment. Downer and WDC are partners of the Waikato District Alliance (WDA) a joint venture formed to manage and maintain the roading assets of the district.


The Downer Basics Civil Apprenticeship Programme aims to attract capable people into the industry and give them career pathways along with industry qualifications.


Ngaruawahia-based WDA, a joint venture between Waikato District Council and Downer New Zealand, has made a commitment to assist with employment opportunities in the district by working with the local community.


Last year Waikato Tainui and Downer met to discuss the possibilities of engaging with unemployed members of the community and offering work opportunities.


The programme is designed to give staff a clearly defined career path and is supplemented with studies and linked to a national qualification.


“In the past, the industry has not had a clearly defined trade like other mainstream trades such as builders, plumbers and electricians,” says WDA manager Doug Carrasco.


“Having a qualification attached to what used to be a “road worker”, has definitely attracted a high calibre of people, who ordinarily would have not considered applying for entry level jobs in the industry,” says Mr Carrasco.


Through the programme the graduates have achieved 50% of the credits towards their Infrastructure Works Level 2 Qualification. They have six months to achieve the rest and after that they can process to Level 4.


The roading industry in New Zealand, along with many other industries, is experiencing a shortage of skilled personnel.


“By providing these learning opportunities that are linked with career pathways we are in a position to attract candidates who are keen to succeed,” says Mr Carrasco.


“The calibre of candidates through this intake has been very high. The candidates went through multiple selection processes to get to the point of starting the academic part of the programme.”


Schemes like the Downer Basics Civil Apprenticeship Programme are designed to create depth and succession in organisations that have an ageing workforce.


“Even if these graduates do not stay with the Waikato District Alliance for a long period, the industry as a whole will see the benefits in the years to come,” says Mr Carrasco.


The intention is for Waikato District Alliance to run the programme annually.


Photo caption: Downer Basics Civil Apprenticeship Programme graduates, from left, Quinn Wilson, Kumeroa White, James Carter celebrate with Waikato District Councillor Janet Gibb, WDA manager Doug Carrasco and Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson.

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