Enrolments up post-Covid

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The unexpected is good news for the Otago Polytechnic Central, says campus manager Kelly Gay.

The tertiary provider had become increasingly busy as more people chose to retrain after changing careers last year because of Covid-19, and this year looked even better, Mr Gay said.

‘‘That was not what we expected, as it was meant to be a recession.

‘‘We have had strong enrolments post-Covid-19, which have been strongly supported by the Government’s free fees for primary industries [programmes], which were well timed, given the need to respond to workforce skill shortages in the short to medium term.’’

Many of the tertiary provider’s 2021 programmes were now capped or approaching full and he encouraged potential students to send in their applications to secure a place in the programme they wanted.

In addition, the polytechnic had signed memorandums of understanding with the Eastern Institute of Technology in Hawke’s Bay, and the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, to share resources and provide further viticultural qualifications from late 2021.

Low bank loan rates encouraging development meant a stronger demand for workers, and made retraining more appealing.

Polytechnic communications officer Melanie Kees said there was also considerable interest in the stonemasonry, sports turf and horticulture courses, which also addressed the long-term staffing shortage in Central Otago.

‘‘We are seeing some significant skills shortages that we did not expect.

‘‘Every stonemason student has got a job to go to.’’

To meet the construction industry’s demand for more workers, the polytechnic launched a new construction course for nine students last year.

High demand continued for hospitality and brewing workers, as well as in agriculture, in the region.

Another change was the move for students who would normally go out of the region to study, but more were choosing to stay in Central Otago to gain tertiary qualifications.