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Workforce Wānanga: What Happened On Day One?

Efforts to improve and future-proof the Tourism & Hospitality workforce kicked off today, as 108 people from across New Zealand virtually attended the first day of the Go with Tourism Workforce Wānanga.

Representatives from industry, associations, educators, unions, students, local government and central government have come together online for the two-day event to develop solutions for current workforce challenges.

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash opened the Wānanga shortly after 9.15am, offering attendees inspiration and encouragement for a hard day’s work of innovative and solutions-based thinking.

In his address, Minister Nash made the exciting announcement of a Tourism Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) that will create a long-term vision for the industry and transition Tourism & Hospitality to a new regenerative model. Skills shortages and career progression will be the priority for the first stage of the ITP, and Wānanga organisers Go with Tourism hope that the solutions developed during their event can feed into this new plan.

The three chairs of the ITP were also unveiled today. Tourism Industry Aotearoa chair Gráinne Troute, Unite Union national secretary John Crocker and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) tourism branch acting general manager Karl Woodhead are currently participating in the Wānanga and will also assist Minister Nash tomorrow afternoon to evaluate the ideas presented by attendees.

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Day One of the Workforce Wānanga focussed on group work, with attendees breaking into eight smaller groups to debate key problem areas identified by Go with Tourism:

  • Perceptions around Tourism & Hospitality careers are counterproductive and discouraging, especially within secondary education
  • Tourism & Hospitality jobs are often low paid with unfavourable working conditions
  • Tourism & Hospitality education and training is often outdated or irrelevant to industries skilled workforce needs
  • The employee experience is subpar and does not inspire workplace satisfaction/fulfilment

Matt Johns, facilitator and host of the Workforce Wānanga, says that today’s quality of debate and discussion was impressive, and he has high hopes for the outcomes that Day Two will bring. “It was clear from listening in to the eight different groups today that these individuals are passionate about improving the workforce in this industry.”

Fluctuating alert levels across the country forced the Wānanga to move online and while the event has come together successfully, facilitating the group work of 100+ people virtually is an arduous task. Matt Stenton, Programme Director of Go with Tourism, is grateful to all attendees of the event for their understanding and commitment to the cause. “Our industry needs immediate solutions for our workforce, so this event was too important to delay. I am very thankful to be working alongside so many passionate people who share the same goal.”

An estimated 80,000 new workers will be needed in Tourism & Hospitality over the next five years, but employers are already finding it incredibly difficult to hire new staff. Go with Tourism will release a short-term plan for improving the workforce by mid-December 2021, using the outcomes from Day Two of the Wānanga. This will be followed by a long-term plan released in January 2022 that aims to make Tourism & Hospitality a career of choice for New Zealanders.

Attendees of the Go with Tourism Workforce Wānanga will gather again tomorrow to present their ideas to Minister Nash and the three co-chairs of the ITP.

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