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Addressing the Waikato Region’s Skills Shortgages


February 19 2008

Addressing the Waikato Region’s Skills Shortgages Gets Serious

A new research and facilitation arm of the Waikato regional development body, Katolyst, has been established at Wintec, under the capable management of long time marketer, researcher and project director Mary Jensen.

“Skillwise” is the latest in a suite of Katolyst initiatives to identify and address the region’s skill shortages immediately and over the next 10-15 years.

With an aging population and projections that in New Zealand numbers of the population retiring will outstrip the number of young people entering the population by around 2020, means that the development and retention of a skilled workforce will become an increasingly competitive activity both within New Zealand and globally.

Skillwise is in the process of aligning industry needs with education offerings, and communicating the likely skills sets required in the future. “In essence, it’s about painting a picture of the required workforce of the future, and communicating this”.

“It is critical that schools, young people, parents and industry embrace a range of new skills and are creative about how those skills can be obtained. To be more effective, employers, secondary and tertiary institutions and students will need to work together more closely and form partnerships which directly benefit both employers and students coming through”. Mary will also assist with the Tertiary Education Commission Regional Facilitation project.

“For urgent skills shortages, e.g. nursing, if the supply of students coming through our tertiary system can’t keep up with requirements of industry, then employers may need to look offshore to fill these positions. Aligning with immigration and ensuring that processes are simple for this to occur will become more and more essential as skills shortages intensify.”

Mary is quick to point out that this is not a problem that is confined to the Waikato or to New Zealand. The hotel and catering industry has an acute shortage of chefs in London. The Skills for Business Network there has also identified a number of cross-sector shortages including management and leadership skills ranging from basic supervisory skills to high level technical and strategic skills.

Mary says, “Employers in the Waikato need also to address upskilling of their current workers to ensure that productivity is maximized and staff retention is made more likely. This could lead to creating pathways for capable employees to acquire shares in small to medium sized businesses, and allow owners to develop a pathway to their retirement while ensuring their business remains productive and profitable.”

Skillwise Katolyst aims to be a hub of skills knowledge, managing the inflow and outflow of up to date skills information. “As well as technical skills requirements, there are a lot of soft skill shortages – as simple as verbal communication skills and team work skills. The world has gone through an incredible time of dramatic change and as well as embracing new sets of skills and technical competencies, we need to ensure that we haven’t lost any important traditional skills along the way.”

Skillwise Katolyst also aims to develop resources promoting the Waikato region as a great place to live. “People have to be sure that they are going to enjoy living in a region – it’s much more than just the job that attracts them to a place, or keeps them here. Part of this is that we need to ensure that the Waikato continues to be a safe place to live.”

Aside from working towards a healthier economy, Mary says the social health of the region, by a collaborative approach to promoting inclusion and cohesion will also improve and provide a positive legacy in terms of employable migrants and other minority communities.

As well as assisting with the complex process of “joining the dots” between all parties associated with creating a skilled workforce, there are specific urgent needs that need to be addressed. “Currently, my most urgent project is a facilitation project addressing skills shortages in the Equine Industry.


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