It is All About People!

6 July 2016

There is an obvious disconnect between our education system, both secondary and tertiary, and what industry needs to grow our economy and prosper. Manufacturers and other sectors are increasingly struggling to find the skilled staff they need to grow, say the New Zealand Manufacturers and Exporters Association (NZMEA).

NZMEA Chief Executive Dieter Adam says, “The availability of skilled people coming out of our education system is an issue that manufacturers have identified for some time, and there have been comments recently of other sectors feeling the same.

“The shortages we often hear about are among the ‘skilled practitioner' level and highly skilled trades workers (NZQF levels 5 and 6), be that a technically skilled team leader in a manufacturing operation or a hotel manager in the tourism sector. Manufacturers are also facing shortages in the area of ‘highly skilled experts’, for example, graduate mechatronics engineers.

“An aggravating factor is the fact that it is exactly these skilled people who are in short supply in many advanced economies – including Germany, for example, as I found in discussions with German manufacturers during a recent visit there. Young New Zealanders with a good technical education are well-regarded internationally and we are increasingly exposed to a global hunt for talent” says Dieter.

“Immigration is a tool in the short term, provided that migrants come with the appropriate skills and levels of practical experience, however, this should not be the long term solution. New Zealand has high rates of numeracy, literacy and problem solving skills when compared to other OECD countries – the key step is helping students gain the additional professional skills being in demand, and making them aware of where opportunities lie.

“The Government has taken excellent initiatives in selected areas, such as the engineering e2e initiative, but beyond its current pursuit of partial solutions the Government needs to undertake a root cause analysis of the underlying problems if it wants to ensure sustainable growth of the New Zealand economy.

“Everybody talks about the need for our economy to move towards value-added products and services, be that in agriculture, tourism or manufacturing. Without enough suitably qualified young people emerging from our education system, that cannot happen, especially with an aging workforce taking skilled workers out of the talent pool and demographic trends reducing the supply of young people entering the workforce.

“The Productivity Commission’s inquiry into new models of tertiary education currently undertaken is a needed step in the right direction. We hope this translates into real change to make our education system more responsive to the needs of industry and where opportunities for well-paid skilled employment exist.” says Dieter.