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Tackling Labour Market Challenges

9 December 2004

Tackling Labour Market Challenges

A report identifying skills shortages across five North Shore industry sectors is becoming a catalyst for improving the links between educators, trainers and the needs of growing businesses. The release of research commissioned from Massey University’s Labour Market Dynamics team by North Shore City’s economic development agency, Enterprise North Shore, will lead to forming of a strategy group to proactively target issues raised.

“We wanted to ask businesses for the number of people and the skills they needed to meet the business demand they were anticipating and wanting to achieve now and in the foreseeable future. With unemployment on the Shore at a record low, it is clear that industries that are critical to North Shore’s future are struggling to find the people they need. Enterprise North Shore believes that an increasingly market-led perspective, that encourages job-seekers and school-leavers to better orient their skills to the roles and employment available on the North Shore, is part of what is needed to help these growing businesses.”

The research document, Employment and Skills in North Shore City, was presented on Tuesday, to representatives from local and central government, iwi, private training establishments and industry training organisations and other interested parties.

“Some of these will participate by contributing to a Labour Market Strategy group, with representatives from the Ministry of Social Development, the Tertiary Education Commission, Enterprise North Shore and Massey University,” said Enterprise North Shore’s Business Development Manager, Gerard Martin. “The Strategy group will emphasise proactively mitigating critical labour market issues over the longer term. We will be meeting early in the New Year once all parties have had a chance to digest this information, and then move forward.”

The presentation, led by Prof. Paul Spoonley from Massey University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, considered the findings from interviews with business owners identified by Enterprise North Shore, from five industry sectors that are either nationally or locally important to the growth of the economy; in particular, business and financial services; information, communications and technology (ICT); tourism, sport and recreation; construction including roading; and niche manufacturing. These were matched with in-depth interviews with business, iwi and community organisations.

The findings indicated that skills shortages are especially acute in trades, semi-skilled and technical positions, particularly in growth industries that are becoming increasingly important to North Shore, such as ICT and specialist manufacturing. Many businesses commented on the lack of basic literacy, life and personal skills and often, a poor work attitude among new employees. The report also highlighted a projected shortfall of people available to take up new jobs, at a time when the economy is particularly buoyant and unemployment in New Zealand is at its lowest level for 18 years.

- The shortfall in skilled, trades and technical staff for North Shore’s growing businesses can be attributed to a combination of:
-
migration of 20-29 year olds away from North Shore insufficient numbers of North Shore school leavers taking up trades and technical training decreasing fertility rates among women, from an average of 3.2 children per woman in 1970 to an average of 1.97 children in 2001 significant business growth in new industries and those involved in infrastructure development such as ICT and construction

The concern is that this shortfall is affecting the growth prospects of industry sectors that are increasingly responsible for the City’s prosperity. It is anticipated that if this continued unchecked, increasing skills shortages will affect business profitability and in turn the ability of North Shore, through rates and taxes, to contribute to major infrastructure projects such as transport and community amenities. With a projected shortfall in employees, Prof Spoonley anticipates North Shore will need more skilled immigrants in the foreseeable future. He suggests that there is already a need for suitable subsidised English language training for immigrants.

“The research findings have provided the detail that has been lacking for issues that we have been aware of largely as a result of anecdotal evidence from the many businesses we meet,” said Enterprise North Shore’s Chief Executive, Terry Hoskins. “The next twelve to eighteen months will be demanding in designing and delivering the projects that the Strategy Team believes will alleviate the issues that are increasingly apparent among businesses that will provide the economic backbone of North Shore’s future.”

For a copy of the Employment and Skills in North Shore City report, see: www.enterprisens.org.nz/publications/other/

ENDS

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