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Recession Proofing Our Community


OPINION EDITORIAL

Recession Proofing Our Community through Proactive Skill Development.

Unemployment is predicted to reach a peak in March 2010 with people with lower skills making up about 75% of the increase, according to recent BERL research commissioned by ITP New Zealand. These figures are indicative of a long-term issue for which we need a proactive solution – the issue of lower skilled individuals being most susceptible to change and recession. According to the research, of the nine occupational classifications the higher skilled occupations including managers, professionals, technicians and trades workers are less likely to be affected and the lower-skilled occupations such as sales workers, labourers, and clerical and administrative workers will be disproportionately affected.

The opportunity created by this unfortunate recession is to address both unemployment increases and the more serious issue of the need for a more productive New Zealand workforce at the same time through upskilling and retraining. The knowledge worker is crucial to increased efficiencies, productivity and innovation. Now is the time to invest in developing New Zealanders’ skills for the future by encouraging individuals to pursue opportunities to achieve a higher level of qualification with relevance to their current industry or a new qualification to enter a different industry, one that is predicted to grow in the future and lead the transformation of our economy.

The benefits of retraining are significant. Not only will we be helping those who have lost their job to move back into the workforce we’ll be providing a much-needed skills boost for an upturning economy.

So how do we make it happen, and more importantly, can we respond quickly as unemployment statistics grow? I believe that Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITP’s) are the best placed of all New Zealand’s tertiary institutes to respond because we have the capability and flexibility to respond immediately to further investment in skills training. Our regional focus means that we also have a track record of working with local government, employers and unions in the communities we operate in – so we can be counted on to work with our communities to make it happen.

ITPs are a key part of the value chain in economic transformation (along with business, and government). One of our most important roles is to educate the ‘new professionals’ who will lead the transformation of our economy and society in the future. It is these new professionals with a vocational background who are innovative, self-directed and entrepreneurial and can thrive in a fast-moving, changing environment.

Wellington Institute of Technology is actively engaged in indentifying the needs of the Wellington Region for education services that will help improve productivity levels, encourage private sector employment growth, develop current and future skills needs, and support export led growth. Views from industries, employers, business and other relevant stakeholders have been sought to determine the needs, gaps and priorities for the Wellington region and Wellington Institute of Technology is ready and willing to address these needs.

The Industries with the strongest growth over the next five years are projected to be: health and community services, personal and other services, and education; agriculture and services to agriculture; transport, storage and communication; wholesale and retail trade and accommodation, cafes and restaurants, according to NZIER research, also released recently by ITPNZ.

Currently Wellington Institute of Technology is actively engaged in the development and introduction of a broader range of certificate, diploma, degree and graduate diploma programmes in the areas of health and community services, the area with strongest predicted growth in the next five years. These programmes complement the existing expertise Wellington Institute of Technology already has with the niche provision across the country of the only undergraduate degree in Alcohol and Drug Studies. These qualifications are also attracting increasing interest from overseas health professionals wishing to add to their own areas of specialisation.

Another practical example of how Wellington Institute of Technology is already assisting with the development and future proofing of a higher skilled workforce is the current undertaking with other Hospitality providers to address the need to upskill, increase and retain the Hospitality workforce for the Rugby World Cup 2011. The mandate is not only to provide a trained workforce to deliver an exceptional event but is also to raise the expectations and standards within the hospitality industry for the longer term. The result will be a superior visitor experience and the enhancement of New Zealand’s reputation internationally as a destination for tourism and for exceptional events.

Unlike universities, many ITP courses do not require a long-term investment of time and money and they target more vocationally-based skills. Across a broad range of vocational disciplines, individuals are able to take a 17 week or 34 week course building on existing skills or learning new skills for an emerging local industry – and it’s these skills they will need to help them get a new, more relevant and more future proof job.
In addition, with our fellow ITPs, we’re looking at how we can work together to provide an even broader range of solutions within the higher diploma and degree technology area to provide more choice for vocationally based, higher level and relevant options to increase productivity and future proof the nation.

Wellington Institute of Technology is seeking collaboration with and support from relevant government departments, business and industry partners to continue to expand and enhance the range of scholarships, cadetships and other packages of training for new professional careers and emerging industries.


ends

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