Plans are afoot to train as many local apprentices and other workers ‘as practicable’ before the New Dunedin Hospital construction begins a little over two years from now.

Local Advisory Group convenor Pete Hodgson says that the opportunities for young people interested in the trades, or those who want a career change, are the best that Dunedin will see in a life time.

“The construction process will be large and long. We anticipate about 800 or 850 people working on the project for four or five years, most of whom will have a trade qualification of some sort. Maybe another 200 staff will be involved in ancillary work such as security services, truck driving or offsite construction.

“We can bring those people in from Christchurch or the Philippines or wherever, or we can train and upskill our own people.

"We need to acknowledge that we will need to employ some people from out of town; the job is simply too big to avoid that. However, we can maximise the advantage to our own workforce, and our own communities, by planning ahead, and that planning has now begun.

“We are confident we will be much more able to prepare than other centres, especially Auckland, where they are now having to play catch up. Part of our confidence arises from the ease of organising a response in Dunedin.

"It seems we are large enough to get things done yet small enough to readily organise it. We will be greatly assisted by still emerging government policies which make it easier for firms to take on more apprentices or which obligate companies receiving government contracts to undertake more training.

“Perhaps the most important insight is that the opportunity for young tradesmen and tradeswomen does not stop in 2026 when the hospital is scheduled for completion. The reality is that during the peak building years the hospital will effectively crowd out some other capital expenditure.

"The costs of major construction in and around Dunedin will rise and labour will be scarce. Therefore, some activity – especially in the public sector such as the University, Polytech and the DCC – will be deliberately scheduled for the years following. The current activity such as the new dental school or animal research facility will reduce in the next few years only to resume in the mid-late 2020s.

“All this means that Dunedin’s construction sector is moving from a lower level of activity historically to a somewhat higher one for the next 12 or 15 years. It isn’t going to be a boom and bust so much as one long and drawn out boom. We can easily envisage activity out to 2030 or 2033.”

Mr Hodgson said that the next step in planning will probably be to hold a half day meeting of interested parties to establish a structure and a marketing program, probably about a month from now.

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