‘Work Hub’ opens in Lower Hutt to help train people to fill construction jobs

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A former Naenae rest home reopens on Monday as a "work hub" to help house unemployed workers and  lead them into entry-level construction industry jobs.

The re-purposed hospital wing of Wesleyhaven resthome is now a 40-bed lodge for Kiwi Can Do, an industry partnership with trade association membership groups, Wesley Community Action, and the Ministry of Social Development, to serve as the programme's Wellington hub.

It will house trainees from throughout southern areas of the North Island for three weeks before placing them into construction jobs, and offering them in-work support for 12 months.

The Wellington hub -  which will be formally opened by  Minister of Social Development Carmel Sepuloni and Minister of Building and Construction Jenny Salesa - has been piloted over the last six months drawing trainees from Wellington, Porirua and the Hutt Valley on a daily basis. The first intake of out-of-town residential trainees will come from Wairarapa, Manawatū, Horowhenua and Kāpiti over the next week.

The three-week programme provides drug testing, driver licensing, site-safety training, and provides safety gear to strip away barriers for those in the programme.

Workers will help build 25 pre-fabricated homes on the Naenae site to later be used as social housing.

The key target for the course is 18 to 25-year-olds not in employment, education or training, also referred to as NEETS, but is open to any age, Kiwi Can Do said in a statement. It's also an attempt to address the gap in representation of Māori and Pasifika in the skilled sections of the construction industry.

The programme, developed over the last five years, employs retired tradesmen, referred to in house as "Dad's Army", to provide hands-on training.

It is the brain child of Wellington businessman Iain Morrison, and chaired by Dame Fran Wilde, a former Wellington Mayor and MP.  Wilde said the programme could make an "enormous impact" for New Zealanders who had fallen between the education cracks.

The Wellington hub will complement a 40-bed Otimai Lodge in Oratia, West Auckland which draws trainees from Whakatane and south Waikato to Kaitaia in the far north to help meet the "unprecedented demand" for workers in Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.

In Auckland the programme also offers a separate women's residential dwelling with a capacity of up to 20 trainees.

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