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Action Needed Over Worrying Skills Shortage

Media release
6 July 2004


Manukau City Council is to undertake pioneering research to predict the future skill needs of the city as a result of a severe skills shortage which now affects 50% of businesses in Manukau.

There is a shortage of professionals, tradespeople - and even labourers and factory workers despite the large pool of 14,000 unemployed.

A new Department of Labour survey confirms that the shortage of adequate unskilled/semi skilled workers such as factory and warehouse staff is intensifying faster than the shortage of skilled and qualified staff.

Even these positions require the ability to read and write along with practical and fundamental skills such as turning up on time and knowing how to behave at work. Employers are finding applicants often lack these abilities and it is the primary reason for Manukau's unemployment rate remaining at 5.8%.

Manukau mayor Sir Barry Curtis says there has been a woeful lack of planning and training to meet future skills needs, and that must be changed. The Council is undertaking research to predict the future skills requirements of the workforce in order to better match up skills with job vacancies and employer needs.

"There's a severe mismatch at the moment. We don't need hundreds of young people training in trendy things like the media and tv presenting, when there are few jobs in this area and it's highly competitive. On the other hand we don't have nearly enough people in practical areas as nursing, engineering, building and biotechnology, or even plumbing."

The problem is slowing down economic growth and holding back individual businesses. If the current unemployed had the skills and qualifications needed to fill vacancies the unemployment rate would have fallen to 3.8%.

The main reason for the shortage of skilled staff is the high economic growth which has taken place in recent years, and the biggest shortage is in the trades. That has increased the demand for products and services such as housing, construction, education and health services.

Manukau's economic growth last year was just under 6% and the population grew by 10,000, following on from earlier years of similar growth rates. The city is rapidly overtaking Christchurch as the second biggest city in the country in population size.

The Auckland region as a whole grew by 74,500 people in the two years to June 2003. To cater for this level of population growth the economy requires about 34,000 extra workers, including skilled professionals and tradespeople.

This includes 500 new teachers, 510 nurses and 500 accountants - professions which require at least 3 years of training. The region could not provide enough workers with required skills in these categories in just 2 years.

In addition around 4,800 clerks, 210 truck drivers and over 4,000 service and sales workers were required.

Sir Barry says, looking back, many planning mistakes have been made and they have contributed to the situation. "The educational institutions must be more focused on practical courses and not train up young people for jobs where there are few vacancies. They must also plan better for future demand changes.

"Stopping apprenticeships was another mistake as they provided our skilled tradesmen in the past. And more businesses should be taking on cadets or giving people the chance to get work experience on the job. That's what Manukau City Council is doing with our cadet scheme that is taking on 30 young unemployed people for on-the-job training. I would like to see the cadetship idea spread throughout the city.

"But individuals and families have a responsibility also to realize the importance of staying in school and being committed to gaining qualifications. Education opens doors to a better life for everyone."

A skills shortage briefing to education and training agencies and institutions will be held on 31 August and the Council intends to work more closely with government agencies to advocate for more support to improve basic skills, including work-related behavioural skills.


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