Training closure leaves big gap

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Waitaki Training manager Raewyn Perkins hopes a North Otago provider will emerge to plug the gap left with the closure of the Oamaru-based work training organisation.

The gap will become apparent when Waitaki Training, a service of CCS Disability, closes on December 20 after nearly 25 years.

“People need help to write CVs, to make changes, to build new routines into their lives and they need help to get a foot in the door of employers,” Mrs Perkins said of the people who attended Waitaki Training courses over the years.

“If they don’t interview well, we can talk to the employer on their behalf. Our recommendation counts with some employers in selecting people to their workplace.”

With the closure, a total of five staff, including Mrs Perkins – who has worked for the organisation for 19 years – will lose their jobs.

The reason for the closure is because the Government has cut funding through Foundation Focused Training Opportunities, making it economically unviable for Waitaki Training to continue.

“We all have our own concerns about the future,” Mrs Perkins said. “But mostly we’re sad there isn’t a provider to step into the contracts we have.”

When Waitaki Training started, it focused on life skills programmes and then grew into more employment training, educational programmes and employment placement.

“We couldn’t exist if we didn’t have a terrific bunch of community-based employers who give (trainees) the opportunity to prove themselves in work places,” Mrs Perkins said.

Trainees the organisation has helped over the years have been aged from 16 to 64 and Mrs Perkins estimated about 1000 people had been through the various programmes.

“We’ve had people who have been unemployed for 20 years, and as a result of profiling with employers, have gone to work for the first time.

“We’ve also had students who’ve gone onto tertiary training.”

Mrs Perkins said one recent success story was a young mother of two children who came to Waitaki Training hoping to gain work confidence.

“A year later, she had built up her work processing skills and then she got a scholarship to Otago Polytechnic.

“Last year, she sent me a text saying she had finished her studies and got a job at the Dunedin City Council. She thanked us for being the beginning of that journey.”

Mrs Perkins said some students came to Waitaki Training with a desire to make changes in their life; others because they had to.

“It’s really about building their trust so they give us the privilege of telling their stories and where they want to go.

“We try to help them find the step to where they want to get to. Most are looking for their lives to be different.”

Two current trainees said they were disappointed that Waitaki Training was closing.

Jaymie Rangiuia, 26, has come to Oamaru recently and has been looking for a job.
“I want a career and I’m getting units to help me,” she said.

Salanika Kauapa, 17, has been training since the beginning of the year.

“I left school with eight units. I’ve got heaps now through this course.”

She has been accepted for training at a hairdressing academy and will soon be moving to Christchurch.

With the closure, Mrs Perkins said it would be sad also on a personal level for the “tight-knit” team of five staff.

“It’s been a privilege to work with this team of women.”

Joy Gunn, the southern regional manager for CCS Disability Action, believed the change in TEC funding policy and her organisation’s “very tough” decision to close will have a huge impact on the community.

“It’s highly likely people who need support to upskill and get jobs will have this offered from organisations outside Oamaru.

“We struggled with our decision and looked at a number of options to stay open.

“However, we just can’t do it. We do, however, urge Government to find ways to support Oamaru’s industry and growth.”

Mrs Gunn said they held discussions with the Ministry of Social Development, which also funded programmes at Waitaki Training, to look at options.

Mrs Gunn said the ministry was very helpful but no viable solution could be found and she was concerned for the future.

“At present, trainees and job seekers we’re working with can drop in and discuss their challenges. They can also get on the spot help and advice.

“In the future we believe it’s likely they will have to wait until a provider from Timaru or Dunedin can send someone to see them.”

By CHRIS TOBIN