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Maharey: Speech for launch of meat industry

Mon, 29 Nov

Hon Steve Maharey: Speech for launch of meat industry

Speech for launch of meat industry job partnership

Good afternoon, and welcome to the launch of the government's Job Partnership Agreement with the Meat Industry Association.

I'm delighted to be launching the scheme that will see around 1500 Job Seekers get the skills they need for employment in the meat industry over the next year.

Welcome to Carl Ammon, General Manager of the Meat Industry Association; Caryll Shailler, Chief Executive Officer; and Graham Sutton, Chair of the New Zealand Industry Training Organisation.

Your organisations have worked hard to develop this Partnership Agreement, and will continue to work hard as you build the skills base that will enable the meat industry to grow.

Today's launch is proof that the meat industry and the NZITO are more than able to step up to the challenge of developing a skilled workforce for a vibrant economy. Many thanks and congratulations to you all.

Economic and employment conditions

New Zealand's economic and employment landscape has undergone a dramatic and very positive change in recent years.

At 3.8%, our unemployment rate for the September quarter hit an 18-year low. This is the second-lowest unemployment rate in the OECD. Our economic growth rate of 4.4% for the year to June is four times the OECD average.

This very positive picture means that today we face new challenges in promoting opportunities for all working age New Zealanders to move into the workforce. High employment and job availability mean that employers are struggling to find enough skilled staff for their jobs. We're facing a skills gap.

While yesterday's challenge was to find enough jobs for available workers, today's challenge is exactly the reverse: to find enough skilled workers for available jobs. Employers cite a lack of skilled workers as the major factor constraining their growth.

That's unacceptable, and unnecessary. And we're making sure it doesn't continue.

Only through acquiring and developing skills will people find sustainable employment - employment that lasts and has opportunities for advancement. Only through having enough skilled workers will employers be able to grow their businesses, expand the economy, and create more opportunities for employment.

The partnership

Equipping job seekers with the skills they need can't be a haphazard endeavour. We need to identify current and future skills demands, the areas where skilled workers are most needed, and the training that job seekers require.

We need to identify the right people for the industry and target resources towards them. We need to put industry and employers in the driver's seat. Employers know the conditions on the ground, and they know what support they need in a partnership to get people working.

This is the philosophy underpinning each of the six Job Partnerships we've already launched, with the hospitality, retail, transport, plumbing, road and bus and coach industries. It's a philosophy that is working extremely well in practice, and is already proving just as successful for this Partnership with the Meat Industry Association.

The initial contract for this partnership is to provide an NZQA training programme for 200 job seekers, who will receive eight NZQA units towards a National Certificate in Meat Processing Level 1.

Sixty-five people have already completed the training, and the remaining 135 will have finished after Christmas. Achieving the full National Qualification requires only six more NZQA credits, which job seekers will be able to undertake once they're in employment.

Currently available in the Waikato, Taranaki, and Manawatu regions, the training will be quickly rolled out to other regions in the New Year. We expect that 1500 job seekers will have completed the training by the finish of the one-year contract.

That will mean 1500 more work-ready people available to employers needing their trades and technical skills. And because the courses are driven by employer demand, we can be confident the jobs are ready and waiting.

Each partner in this agreement has a distinct role. The Meat Industry Association will identify the skill gaps in regions around New Zealand, and will promote the Partnership to its members. Work and Income will identify suitable job seekers to take part in the training, while the NZITO will deliver a mix of classroom-based and on-the-job training.

The meat industry is a big industry for New Zealand. Work and Income deals with around 400 employers, some with over six thousand staff. In a country of predominantly small to medium sized businesses, that's a big slice of the pie.

A lack of trades and technical skills, particularly in some rural areas, is the primary challenge for the industry to face if it is to carve an even bigger slice. Other issues the industry has identified are a lack of managerial skills, and a lack of succession planning for internal development.

This issue may require additional attention. But we also expect that the trades and technical training provided by this Agreement will have something of a 'trickle-up' effect: building skills on the ground will provide the basis for further development.

The bigger picture

Job Partnerships with industry are a vital component in the government's commitment to get New Zealanders working. On their own, they make a major contribution, but it's crucial that they are viewed as an important piece of the government's overall strategy to help people find jobs and help employers get the staff they need. A wide range of initiatives are now underway to help us reach these important goals.

Among them is the Jobs Jolt package launched last year, of which Job Partnerships are a key part. The package draws together several initiatives that will assist thousands of New Zealanders achieve economic independence through work.

The Mobile Employment Service enables Work and Income to provide a better service to people living in isolated areas.

The Flexible Employment Fund helps young people make a successful transition from school to work.

Enhanced case management provides tailored employment assistance to our three main client groups: Domestic Purposes Benefit clients, Job Seekers, and Sickness and Invalids Benefit clients.

Enhanced case management is also part of the wider Sickness and Invalids Benefit Strategy, a ground-breaking new service that shifts Work and Income's entire focus with these clients from passively processing benefits to actively helping them into work.

This year's Budget included Working for Families, the package that will make work pay for parents moving off benefit into employment.

Working for Families delivers substantial increases in Family Support and other Family Income Assistance, a new In-Work Payment for working families, and increases to assistance with childcare and accommodation costs.

A simpler and more generous abatement system will increase financial incentives to work, while making more people eligible for assistance.

Overall, we expect around 300,000 families to be better off as a result of Working for Families by April 2007.

Closing

Since taking office in 1999, the government has worked steadily and successfully towards a vibrant, healthy nation with a thriving economy and a just society.

We have done so knowing it's not a job for government alone. We depend on partnerships such as the one we're launching today, with people and organisations who have the knowledge, commitment, and energy to drive real progress in our communities and in our nation.

Everyone here today wants to widen the doorway to opportunities for New Zealanders to enjoy the benefits of being part of our country's workforce.

Everyone here is committed to growing a vibrant and dynamic economy that provides opportunities for all New Zealanders to build a better life.

The Job Partnership Agreement with the Meat Industry Association puts that commitment into action.

ENDS


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