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Waikato Readies for Talent War


12:45pm, Friday, 8 September 2006

Waikato Readies for Talent War

The Katolyst Group CEO, Graham Smith and Ministry of Social Development Regional Labour Market Manager, Toni Giddens say the Talent War is on and Waikato businesses must prepare for battle.

“The needs of the Waikato labour market have changed significantly over the past five years. Ongoing engagement and co-ordination with key stakeholders will assist to develop initiatives to address specific industry requirements for the skilled workers our economy needs,” Ms Giddens said.

Approximately 85 business, education and government leaders attended a workshop this morning [note: 8 September] at Hamilton City Council, where Hamilton Mayor Michael Redman announced The Katolyst Group - with funding, key support and leadership from Ministry of Social Development and Wintec - will undertake a Strategic Workforce Initiative.

The four aims of the Strategic Workforce initiative are to:

- Understand the competitive issues facing Waikato businesses
- Determine existing educational and training initiatives
- Understand future workforce skill gaps within Waikato industry
- Develop an action plan to ensure a highly-educated and skilled workforce for the future

Skills Shortages to Increase

Department of Labour research shows growth in the working age population is slowing and is likely to decline from 2020. Coupled with this, current unemployment rates are low, participation rates are at a 20-year high and many skilled workers are being attracted overseas because most western countries are facing the same dilemma.

“New Zealand Institute figures show that New Zealand’s economic growth has been largely driven by a 35% increase in hours worked since 1990. Due to the expected future decline in the growth of the labour force, productivity growth will have to double just to maintain existing GDP growth rates. That means that we are going to have to get a lot smarter about how we work,” said Graham Smith.

Waikato Battle Plan

Mr Smith said The Katolyst Group, Ministry of Social Development and Wintec are taking the lead to develop what he calls a battle plan to combat this issue.

“This initiative is about ensuring that there is greater co-ordination amongst a range of organisations, including businesses, educational providers, Government and local councils. A co-ordinated approach will allow an effective battle plan to be developed and implemented.

“The reality is that regions and countries are now competing for skilled labour, in particular, and the Waikato needs to be better-placed to win the Talent War,” Mr Smith said.

Ms Giddens explained, “we need to be well connected to industry, local iwi and other key community partners. By working in partnership with the people of the Waikato this will better align current initiatives and enable us to focus on labour market, social and economic outcomes for the region.

“Record low unemployment presents a new set of opportunities for us. This is a real opportunity for us to focus on the groups that need extra help, while at the same time addressing the shortages we are experiencing.”

10-15 Year Strategies

The workshop held this morning is only the first step.

“There is no quick fix for the skill shortage challenge Waikato businesses are up against. Today’s workshop allowed us to get some of the major issues on the table and get business, Government and educational leaders thinking about how we can all work more effectively together.

“Katolyst is establishing a steering committee to drive the development and implementation of the Strategic Workforce Initiative, while Russell Drake Managing Director of Staples Rodway Employer Advisory Services, will lead a lot of the practical work on the Initiative,” Graham Smith said.

The first five milestones in the Strategic Workforce Initiative project will be reached within 12 months and include:

1. Implementing a “pilot” school leavers tracking survey
2. Understanding existing educational and training programs within the region and their perceived effectiveness
3. Determining where the major education and training gaps or opportunities exist within industry
4. Developing a regional strategic workforce planning model approved by the steering committee
5. Reaching agreement with one major educational provider to develop a new educational or training program to enhance workforce capabilities

Mr Smith explained the initiative was a long-term project and the action plan will cover strategies for a ten to fifteen year period.

“The Katolyst Group in association with Ministry of Social Development and Wintec’s role in this initiative is to help connect the dots. We will provide leadership to ensure a co-ordinated approach among all relevant organisations that need to work together to solve the skills gap issue for the Waikato,” Mr Smith said.

“This Initiative is a prime opportunity to shape the future of our region and influence positive outcomes that will have long term benefits on individuals, families and the wider community,” Ms Giddens said. “Labour market intelligence and people’s willingness to participate in this initiative will map out a great future for business and our youth.”

The Katolyst Group is the Waikato region’s lead economic development agency. Subsidiaries of the group include the Waikato Innovation Park and the Business Development Centre.


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