Driving Progress in South Auckland

General News

Nov 02, 2016

Auckland International Airport’s 30 year vision will drive tourism and economic growth across New Zealand, but it is also a significant opportunity to boost growth and development within South Auckland. The Airport’s expansion plans are forecast to create upwards of 27,000 new jobs over the next 30 years – and thanks to local employment and training initiative Ara, many of these will be held by local people. 

A collaboration between Auckland International Airport, Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, local employers and training providers, Ara was conceived to connect South Aucklanders with employment opportunities at the Airport. Fittingly, Ara means pathways in Te Reo, and is focused on creating pathways to sustainable work in South Auckland.

There are two components to Ara – a connecting service that connects South Aucklanders seeking work with positions in the Airport redevelopment, and an education arm that provides training to up-skill the current workforce. Importantly, both the jobs hub and education service are industry-driven: employers define their needs for labour and training and Ara responds with suitable candidates and courses.

The major build underway means construction is currently Ara’s primary focus, however it also includes other airport services such as logistics, hospitality, retail and tourism. 

The scale of the AIAL INTB Phase 3 project made it an ideal pilot for Ara, and Fletcher worked with Auckland International Airport to establish the system and develop industry-relevant training programmes. Of the 44 people placed in permanent roles since Ara was launched in November 2015, 28 of those have found work with Fletcher. Stakeholder Manager Tony Howard has worked closely with Ara since the beginning of the programme and is passionate about the benefits for both Fletcher and the industry.

“For Fletcher Ara provides access to a ready pool of labour and training opportunities, and it provides careers and sustainable futures for South Auckland people”. 

One of the key benefits of Ara over traditional recruitment methods is that the team is based on site at the airport, meaning Fletcher and other contractors can simply drop in, explain their recruitment or training needs and the Ara team will find labour or develop courses. Typical turnaround time is 48 hours from the time a contractor notifies Ara of a vacancy to receiving CV’s for potential candidates. As Ara follows the construction programme to determine the needs of the project, they have people ready when the demand hits – keeping construction moving. 

Ara is about making employment opportunities available to all South Aucklanders, and as such no prior construction experience is required. To date 120 people have attended courses covering the main skills required on construction sites: driver licencing, First Aid, Elevated Work Platform, H&S reform, Working at Height, and Confined Spaces. As Ara also provides formal recognition for existing practical skills, when people seek new roles in the future, they go with recognised qualifications. 

The primary driver for the Ara project was to increase the numbers of locally employed people at the airport – currently 58% of the 22,00 people who work at the airport travel from other parts of Auckland, and Auckland International Airport wanted to reverse that. Encouraging people to work locally will boost the local South Auckland economy, allow people to spend less time commuting and more time with family, and importantly for Auckland – take cars off the motorways. 

Adopting this philosophy, Auckland Airport also wanted to ensure local high students were aware of the opportunities available in South Auckland. Auckland Airport and Ara have developed a work experience programme where Year 13 students from local high schools can be involved in the major construction projects out at the airport - providing them with real world experience. Students spend ten weeks in each of four key sectors of construction – traffic management, carpentry, electrical and construction management. Talented students may be taken on as apprentices upon completion of the work experience programme. Apprenticeships can afford significant advantages over tertiary construction courses, allowing students to earn as they learn, in a real world environment, without the weight of a large student loan upon completion. 

This emphasis on real world learning has also seen Tony Howard involved in assessing and shaping the technology and woodwork courses at a local high school – an example of industry shaping the education system. 

With Auckland’s construction boom showing no signs of slowing down, programmes like Ara can be used across the city to source talent and connect local people to jobs.