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Barker Speech: Jobs Jolt employment programme

Rick Barker: Speech notes for the launch of the latest Jobs Jolt employment programme with industry

Speech notes for the launch of the latest Jobs Jolt employment programme with industry

Getting more people into jobs in the retail sector is the focus of a new government/industry relationship agreement launched this week

It is a great pleasure to be here today to launch a jobs partnership between Work and Income and the New Zealand Retailers Association. I bring apologies from my colleague, Steve Maharey, who is spending some time with his family following their sad loss last week.

Participation in the workforce is a critical pathway to well-being for people, families, and communities. Participation in paid work provides income and material well-being. It also provides a sense of self-worth and self-confidence; a sense of future possibilities.

This Government is committed to closing the skills gap that is a barrier to employment for some of our Job Seekers.

Job Partnerships with Industry are key initiatives in Jobs Jolt package. Tonight we're launching our third formal partnership: the Job Partnership with Industry Relationship Agreement with New Zealand Retailers Associations.

This partnership will open up career opportunities in the Retail industry for people who are currently unemployed. It will also enable Work and Income to act as a premier recruitment service to employers in the industry; by selecting Job Seekers for training that are the right matches for the employers' needs.

The time is right for a new approach

Department of Labour statistics tell us that conditions are perfect for a boost to employment. New Zealand's economy is performing well, achieving 3.8% per annum growth over the last four years. The unemployment rate has dropped to 4.4%, the lowest rate since 1987.

• Growth has been particularly strong in domestic sectors. Hospitality, tourism, road transport, and retail industries have all expanded.

This in turn has created a skills gap. Employers are crying out for skilled workers; Work and Income Job Seekers don't have the skills that industries need.

• Job Partnerships with Industry will seek to close that skills gap by researching the skills gaps, and identifying where employers need skilled workers. It will match Job Seekers on the Work and Income register with selected industries and employers, and it will deliver those Job Seekers the relevant training and pre-employment experience.

Job Partnerships with Industry is led by industry and led by demand. Work and Income will make referrals that match employers' criteria, and will work closely with employers in designing training and work experience.

This Job Partnership with Industry Relationship Agreement is a prime example of an industry-led strategy. New Zealand Retailers Association is closely involved at every step-it's stepped right up to the challenge.

Building on what's already working

The concept of working in partnership is not new or untested. Work and Income runs many successful local partnerships with industries and larger employers in regions around New Zealand.

Job Partnerships with Industry provides a national framework for that activity. It's a national strategy with very strong links to the regions, providing consistency, planning, and co-ordination of what's happening around the country.

It will let us expand existing partnerships, develop new ones, and fill the skills shortages that are constraining growth in the regions.

Skills shortages in the retail industry

I mentioned earlier that the growth in sectors like hospitality and retail has led to skills gaps in those industries.

It has been identified that: • research is needed into future skills shortages in the industry • government, industry, and other organisations need to work together to tackle those shortages • the retail industry needs to address its retention of workers.

Work is already underway on increasing recruitment and retention in the retail industry.

In the last 2 to 3 years the Work and Income Wellington and Auckland Regions have been running a retail programme. Its goal is to place 100 Job Seekers in employment in these regions.

The Job Partnership will expand this initiative over the next three years into "retail hot spots" around New Zealand. The first stage will involve delivering the initiative to a further 60 participants in the Christchurch, Central and Bay of Plenty.

The roles of the parties in the partnership

New Zealand Retailers Association is an excellent choice for our third Job Partnership with Industry. The organisation's goal is to address the issues faced by the retail industry and by people who choose retail for their career.

Clearly, recruitment and retention are the current big issues affecting the industry.

New Zealand Retailers Association and the Retail ITO will assess in identifying Intermediaries that can assess Work and Income Job Seekers to make sure they have the necessary qualities to be successful in the retail industry. They will also assist in the arrangement of a structured training programme, including pre-placement and on the job training, and delivery of NZQA standards where appropriate.

To address the problems of retention in the industry, the Intermediary will also give follow-up support to Job Seekers after they enter employment, and help Job Seekers develop and implement a six-month career plan.

New Zealand Retailers Association will continue to research skills shortages in the retail industry, promote the Job Partnership to its members, and get feedback about how well the partnership's initiatives are meeting their needs.

Jobs Jolt package

In October this year, the Government signed its first Job Partnership with Industry agreement, with the Hospitality Association of New Zealand. We're well on the way towards entering agreements with the tourism, and trades industries.

While Job Partnerships with Industry is a significant initiative in the Jobs Jolt package, it's by no means the only one.

• A Mobile Employment Services initiative will enable Work and Income to provide a better service to people living in isolated rural areas, helping more of these people into work.

• The Flexible Employment Fund focuses on helping young people make a successful transition from school to work.

The Flexible Employment Fund also provides an opportunity for central and local government to work together. It links to the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs objective of having all 15 to 19 year olds engaged in education, training or work by 2007. An ambitious, but achievable goal.

• Enhanced Case Management enables Work and Income Case Managers to work more proactively with Sickness and Invalid Beneficiaries. We know that many people in receipt of a Sickness of Invalid Benefit want to work, and have some capacity to do so.

• The Innovative Employment Assistance initiative will fund additional programmes available to clients who are at risk of being on a Sickness Benefit long term, or of moving onto an Invalids Benefit.

Concluding remarks

Jobs Jolt is about being innovative. Providing assistance that is going to help a wider range of client groups into work. Helping more New Zealanders achieve independence through employment and community participation. Building economic growth and community wellbeing.

We're all here to achieve these things. We're here to launch a positive and dynamic initiative that will get more New Zealanders into work. We're here because we're committed to building a better future.

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