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Skill shortages down slightly

19 November 2002 Media Statement

Skill shortages down slightly but reinforce need to keep focus on training

New information showing skill shortages remaining at high levels in the economy reinforce the government’s emphasis on boosting skill acquisition by New Zealanders, says Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey.

The Department of Labour’s Skill Shortages report for the September 2002 quarter was published on its website today. It indicates that the percentage of businesses experiencing difficulty finding skilled labour fell slightly over the quarter and the difficulty of finding unskilled labour remains steady at a 17-year high. Skill shortages were cited as a constraint on increasing output for one in eight firms.

Steve Maharey said the findings reinforce the need to rebuild a training culture across all New Zealand businesses, since this offers the best long-term solution to closing skill gaps.

“Skill shortages have emerged in our economy because of we are experiencing a sustained period of growth and low levels of unemployment. While they are a consequence of a dynamic, healthy economy both the government and employers need to act to ensure skill shortages do not constrain the country’s productive capacity.

“The government’s industry training strategy is a key response to the skill shortages issue. Last year 95,263 New Zealanders participated in systematic on-the-job industry training and the government has committed to boosting trainee numbers to 250,000 within five years.

“Other government initiatives planned to counter skill shortages include:
- industry and region-specific skills strategies, for example with the forestry industry on the East Coast and work now underway with the seafood, clothing and textile, agriculture and pip fruit industries;
- the tertiary education reforms, which require for industry and community skill needs to be actively weighed when providers are developing their funding profiles;
- improvements to immigration policy placing a much stronger emphasis on matching skilled migrants with the needs of the labour market; and,
- improving the information available about skills sought by employers, opportunities for training, and graduate outcomes.

“Each of these initiatives will only work succesfully if business, government and unions work together. Boosting the overall skill levels in the New Zealand workforce today is our best insurance policy against damaging skills shortages emerging tomorrow,” said Steve Maharey.

ENDS

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