Every business knows that growth is important. Finding skilled staff, providing them with the right training for the job, and moving the right people up the ranks is a key challenge for many Manawatū industries. This is especially true for any industry that requires trained drivers – from delivery trucks, through to wheels, tracks and rollers; our civil construction and logistics industries are crying out for good people, and a way to deliver great on-the-job training.
We sat down with the National Driver Training Centre Industry and Training Facilitator, Justin Graham, to find out about how the National Driver Training Centre is meeting this challenge head on.
What is the National Driver Training Centre?
The National Driver Training Centre is a specialised driver training facility based in Feilding. We offer Class 1 driver licensing courses from learners through to full, and partner with industry-certified training providers to deliver Class 2- 6 licensing and training options. Our Class 2 – 5 licensing and training options cover all sorts of heavy vehicles, as well as endorsements for dangerous goods, forklift and wheels, tracks and rollers.
Our custom-built, closed training environments are what set us apart. We offer the opportunity to take the training out of the yard, and into safe, real-world simulations. For example; we have teams who are preparing for earthworks on steep inclines learning to use the equipment on our five metre high earthworks simulation. If you are learning to operate a forklift, we have a warehouse simulation so you are taking the theory and applying it to a real-world environment on the same day.
Why is a Class 1 drivers licence important?
We know that having a Class 1 drivers licence opens the door to employment. For our young people, it’s their first taste of independence and can help them to support whānau and attend work, study or other training opportunities. There are more young people leaving school without their licence than many people realise, and without that first step – any career that requires a Class 1 or higher licence is out of reach for a few years. This isn’t just for those looking for a career with heavy vehicles – but any industry from courier driving, to early-childhood education or warehousing.
Do you find many students go on to complete further driver training?
Absolutely, we really work to promote that Class 1 can be the first step in ensuring that students are highly employable. This year in particular has shown the value of transferable skill sets and we see many people coming back to retrain or upskill for a shift in career direction.
New Zealand is already facing a massive truck driver shortage, and with significant infrastructure projects in the works like Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway, KiwiRail’s Regional Freight Hub, the Ōtaki to Levin expressway, and the Palmerston North Ring Road, the demand for skilled local people is only going to increase.
Many of the big industries have their own in-house training providers, what’s the feedback been so far?
Our facilities are available to hire for both in-house trainers and external training providers and we want to work with industry to upskill their team in a safe and controlled environment, helping them to develop the skills they need for real world situations.
We do have industry-approved contractors if training instructors are required, however it’s more important to us that we have as many organisations as possible using the facility, with more trained drivers out on the roads.
Where did the idea for the National Driver Training Centre come from?
We became interested in the importance of Class 1 driver training for school leavers several years ago, which – after working with other organisations in the region – led to the understanding that we, in Manawatū, are facing a big challenge alongside the rest of the country.
We have significant investment coming into the region via several large projects, and we simply do not have the trained, local people available for employers to deliver these projects. This means that talent will need to be imported from outside of the region, or brought in from overseas – and we knew we had a short window of time to get the pipeline going from Class 1 – to move through the other licence classes.
We’ve had massive support from local and regional councils, iwi, schools, the Ministry of Social Development, NZTA, Talent Central and other key organisations – culminating in our successful application to the Provincial Growth Fund in 2018, which has provided the funding needed to complete the capital works on our training facilities.