Developing a future-focused labour force

LICENSED TO WORK: Gisborne Girls’ High and Boys’ High students celebrate at the Licence to Work graduation in October. Activate Tairawhiti general manager economic development Steve Breen says investing in our local talent, from youth through to the current labour force, is a key part of addressing labour shortages and ensuring a healthy, skilled and successful workforce. Picture by Cinema East

If ever there is a time for someone to return to Gisborne it is now, says Activate Tairawhiti general manager economic development Steve Breen.

A recent survey of 40 local employers by Activate identified 400 jobs that need filling over the next six months.

The survey covered a range of sectors, including horticulture, civil engineering, forestry, transport, tourism and information technology, with work available across all skill levels.

“This information confirms the growth we identified with our 2016 labour market analysis — it is very promising and exciting for our region,” says Mr Breen.

Activate conducted labour market analysis with Ministry of Social Development support. Results showed up to 1800 jobs will be created in-region over the next three to five years.

Tairawhiti is not the only region with a skills shortage. Ashburton, for example, is short 500 workers at an estimated cost of $16 million in lost output to its local economy this year alone. The total cost could hit $105m by 2030.

“That output loss, if applied to Tairawhiti, shows how filling those jobs will make a real difference in lifting our living standards and quality of life.”

Labour shortages were a national and international issue, which reiterated the need to invest in and enable local talent to be the stars of Tairawhiti’s regional growth story, he said.

“A booming and skilled labour force will also enable us to position Tairawhiti as a place of opportunity, attracting more skilled people who want to live here.”

First on that list were those who left home due to lack of opportunity, and want to return. This would form the basis of an upcoming regional marketing campaign, in support of employers’ own efforts to fill skill gaps.

Activate Tairawhiti and Gisborne Chamber of Commerce also completed a separate qualitative engagement study with 51 local businesses in September. Participants were asked about the challenges they faced doing business here and how the chamber and Activate could better support them.

At a glance, Activate’s purpose was ideally seen to fulfil several functions, including: supporting businesses to move towards more value-added production; regional promotion; improving employment outcomes by upskilling local talent; combatting infrastructure constraints and reducing direct costs to business.

Mr Breen said the “compelling” report findings would be made available before Christmas.

“Activate is definitely acting on this valuable feedback. It has created a much clearer picture in terms of the region’s expectations of us and what we need to do to champion that — starting with our skills shortage.

“We know from research in the UK that young people who experience four or more employer contacts while at school, are five times less likely to be unemployed when they leave.

“Therefore, the other side of addressing but also future-proofing the skills shortage must be a continued youth focus.”

Part of this was Activate’s support of the Young Enterprise Scheme, delivered by the chamber, which had nine teams entered this year and 31 students taking part.

“The results of YES speak for themselves.”

Project Ataahua chief executive Nitha Vashti won the national YES award for individual CEO of the Year. As the regional winner, Project Ataahua attended the national finals evening in Wellington on Thursday last week.

Nitha was also part of a group of students that took part in Activate-funded incubator programmes at PetfoodNZ International Ltd this year and last year. She is one of two from the 2018 intake to be offered an internship with the company in 2019.

Mr Breen said a real highlight and promising development for the Tairawhiti labour force had been the progress of Activate Tairawhiti’s Licence to Work programme (see back page of The Gisborne Herald Business Quarterly).

Its purpose was to get youth ready for employment through work placement, volunteer hours and modules on employability skills.

LTW had gone from strength-to-strength, he said. Employers were seeing it as a way to identify future employees, with employment outcomes — including apprenticeships — now being offered to students as a result.

“There is a wider effort being made across agencies, education providers, government and our community to support our local talent and employers,” said Mr Breen. “The timing could not be better; this region has opportunity-a-plenty and that is a great place to start from.”

If ever there is a time for someone to return to Gisborne it is now, says Activate Tairawhiti general manager economic development Steve Breen.

A recent survey of 40 local employers by Activate identified 400 jobs that need filling over the next six months.

The survey covered a range of sectors, including horticulture, civil engineering, forestry, transport, tourism and information technology, with work available across all skill levels.

“This information confirms the growth we identified with our 2016 labour market analysis — it is very promising and exciting for our region,” says Mr Breen.

Activate conducted labour market analysis with Ministry of Social Development support. Results showed up to 1800 jobs will be created in-region over the next three to five years.

Tairawhiti is not the only region with a skills shortage. Ashburton, for example, is short 500 workers at an estimated cost of $16 million in lost output to its local economy this year alone. The total cost could hit $105m by 2030.

“That output loss, if applied to Tairawhiti, shows how filling those jobs will make a real difference in lifting our living standards and quality of life.”

Labour shortages were a national and international issue, which reiterated the need to invest in and enable local talent to be the stars of Tairawhiti’s regional growth story, he said.

“A booming and skilled labour force will also enable us to position Tairawhiti as a place of opportunity, attracting more skilled people who want to live here.”

First on that list were those who left home due to lack of opportunity, and want to return. This would form the basis of an upcoming regional marketing campaign, in support of employers’ own efforts to fill skill gaps.

Activate Tairawhiti and Gisborne Chamber of Commerce also completed a separate qualitative engagement study with 51 local businesses in September. Participants were asked about the challenges they faced doing business here and how the chamber and Activate could better support them.

At a glance, Activate’s purpose was ideally seen to fulfil several functions, including: supporting businesses to move towards more value-added production; regional promotion; improving employment outcomes by upskilling local talent; combatting infrastructure constraints and reducing direct costs to business.

Mr Breen said the “compelling” report findings would be made available before Christmas.

“Activate is definitely acting on this valuable feedback. It has created a much clearer picture in terms of the region’s expectations of us and what we need to do to champion that — starting with our skills shortage.

“We know from research in the UK that young people who experience four or more employer contacts while at school, are five times less likely to be unemployed when they leave.

“Therefore, the other side of addressing but also future-proofing the skills shortage must be a continued youth focus.”

Part of this was Activate’s support of the Young Enterprise Scheme, delivered by the chamber, which had nine teams entered this year and 31 students taking part.

“The results of YES speak for themselves.”

Project Ataahua chief executive Nitha Vashti won the national YES award for individual CEO of the Year. As the regional winner, Project Ataahua attended the national finals evening in Wellington on Thursday last week.

Nitha was also part of a group of students that took part in Activate-funded incubator programmes at PetfoodNZ International Ltd this year and last year. She is one of two from the 2018 intake to be offered an internship with the company in 2019.

Mr Breen said a real highlight and promising development for the Tairawhiti labour force had been the progress of Activate Tairawhiti’s Licence to Work programme (see back page of The Gisborne Herald Business Quarterly).

Its purpose was to get youth ready for employment through work placement, volunteer hours and modules on employability skills.

LTW had gone from strength-to-strength, he said. Employers were seeing it as a way to identify future employees, with employment outcomes — including apprenticeships — now being offered to students as a result.

“There is a wider effort being made across agencies, education providers, government and our community to support our local talent and employers,” said Mr Breen. “The timing could not be better; this region has opportunity-a-plenty and that is a great place to start from.”

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