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by Chris Tobin

Four women are among the 10 students who have enrolled in Ara Polytechnic’s new heavy truck-driving course which is being officially launched this evening.

Steve Divers, director of Career Pathways for Road Freight Transport, said the course was created in consultation with transport operators.

“In this way it is a first of its kind in New Zealand.

“This highlights the partnership between industry, the local training institute and Aoraki Development.”

With skilled transport and logistics workers in demand in South Canterbury, Ara expected more would enrol.

“This has been the experience of other institutes, such as Northtec, where growth in student numbers has continued to steadily increase across five campuses since their new programme was introduced.”

Mr Divers said at least 2800 new drivers would be needed nationally per year for the next 10 years.

“In addition to replacing those drivers leaving the industry, an extra able and willing 2800 drivers need to be attracted to enter the industry each year just to keep driver resources at current levels relative to the freight task.”

A recent survey in the Gisborne area revealed the number of drivers needed had increased from an estimated 20 to 180 over the next two to three years.

Mr Divers saw similarities in the Timaru area due to the proximity of the port and the connection with local food production.

The South Canterbury labour market survey of transport, by Skillz Solutionz Ltd in 2016, found there was likely to be ongoing staff and skills shortages in the transport sector, mainly with trained and experienced truck drivers.

“The industry is facing a serious shortage of drivers, with significant numbers of trucks parked up on any given day and the problem is looking to get worse,” Mr Divers said.

The transport and logistics course will be launched at the South Canterbury Traction Engine & Transport Museum at Washdyke.