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Cooperation needed to fight skills shortage

Cooperation needed to fight skills shortage

New Zealand’s skill shortages aren’t going to improve until employers and the tertiary sector learn to work together more effectively, according to the co-organiser of a conference in Auckland next month.

Dave Hodges is the co-organiser of the forthcoming 5th Asia-Pacific Cooperative Education Conference, which runs from 1-3 December, and he says that tertiary institutions must prepare their students for the world of work if they are to meet employer’s needs.

“There has been a lot of discussion recently about the ‘skills gap’ that employers are experiencing – the difficulties in recruiting staff in various sectors of the workforce. But often missing from this dialogue are the personal skills deficiencies that many employers say are lacking in graduates.”

The Associate Dean of the Undergraduate Division at Unitec, Hodges has published research which shows that employers want well-rounded graduates who have a broad range of skills that goes beyond the technical knowledge base of their subject area.

“According to employers from a variety of sectors, the highly desirable graduate skills and attributes are those like interpersonal effectiveness, customer and client service, teamwork, problem solving, flexibility and initiative – the sort of skills best developed in the workplace.”

It’s a Catch-22 situation that those who graduated into the more competitive labour market of the past will know well – you need experience in the workplace before you can get a job, but you can’t get a job without experience.

The key is to make internships, practicums or industry placements a part of tertiary education programmes, “so that the students gain a much clearer understanding of what is required in the workplace and what it means to be a professional practitioner”.

Hodges says this international conference “provides an opportunity for Government, education providers and industry to develop effective partnerships in order to improve the work-readiness and career insights of graduates”.

The theme of the conference is “Weaving the threads of knowledge”, and speakers include Warehouse founder Stephen Tindall and Michael Barnett from the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, as well a number of overseas experts in workplace learning.

Hodges says the conference will be of interest not only to academics and government policy makers, but also to employers seeking more effective recruitment strategies.

“It’s for anyone who struggles to find good staff, is concerned about the widening skills gap in their industry or is looking for different ways to structure work placements and apprenticeships in their business.”

The third day of the conference focuses on the industry perspective of the education/business partnership.

Details of the conference can be found on the website: http//events.lincoln.ac.nz/ace

What: 5th Asia-Pacific Cooperative Education Conference
When: 1-3 December 2004
Where: Ellerslie Convention Centre

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