Applicants for UCOL's new truck and forklift driving programme are arriving well aware of the shortage of skilled drivers - in the region and internationally.
The Level 2 National Certificate in Goods Services programme was introduced last year and is now filling its quota for the first intake for 2012.
Programme Coordinator Dave Jenkins says there's a strong awareness amongst applicants that the certificate will lead to job opportunities, in New Zealand, Australia and further afield.
He says the shortage is partly driven by an ageing truck driving population, with many nearing retirement. "There's also an increasing need for skilled drivers with the knowledge to manage the safety, fuel economy, weights and loading issues that are part of the job."
Truck driving is on the skill shortage lists for immigrants in both New Zealand and Australia. Dave says Road Transport NZ also recently drew attention to the problem in a circular to members, quoting international reports that show the demand for truck drivers is now reaching a critical level.
"In the United States there's a real nervousness about this shortage as the economy slowly strengthens and demand increases. The same can be said of New Zealand."
The Branch Manager of national transport company Hooker Pacific in Palmerston North, Chris Buddle, confirms a shortage of drivers in the Manawatu. "Especially good ones. As a company committed to training, we strongly support the UCOL programme because it means graduates come into the industry with an awareness of the big issues, including safety, and an appreciation of the training and experience they need to move up to further levels.
"We need committed people with real skills and a real interest in the challenge of professional driving and the opportunities available in a fast growing local industry. It requires a range of skills and knowledge - it's not just about being a driver. We really need these people coming into the transport sector - and they can look forward to rewarding careers."
Chris says the UCOL certificate is also the first step towards becoming Class 5 drivers who are even more in demand.
UCOL is the only trainer in the Manawatu offering the nationally recognised certificate which also includes a Forklift Safety certificate and Dangerous Goods endorsement.
Dave Jenkins says the programme includes how to load and unload vehicles and do pre-drive checks. "The skills they get make graduates very employable in a range of areas like local delivery, warehousing, or couriering, just to name a few."
The programme starts on 12 March, with a limited number of places still available.
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