Regional Skills Leadership Groups (RSLGs) launched their inaugural Regional Workforce Plans (RWPs) in the second half of 2022. In 2020, the then Labour Market Ministers agreed that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) would take the lead on delivering a theme-based cross-agency response to the RWPs within 6 months of their launch.

RSLGs identify and support better ways of meeting future skills and workforce needs in our regions and cities

RSLGs are part of a joined-up approach to regional labour market planning, designed to see our workforce, welfare, education and immigration systems working together, alongside demand-side actors, to better meet labour force needs across the country. The 2019 Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s report, Whakamana Tāngata, recommended establishing RSLGs to improve coordination across regional labour market participants.

As outlined in the 2022/23 letter of expectations from the Minister for Social Development and Employment to RSLG co-chairs, the core role of RSLGs is to:

  • inform local labour market actors by providing insight on current and future market conditions and skills needs gained from regional engagement and analysis
  • guide and coordinate local actors to shape regional solutions to meet regional labour market needs, and
  • influence government decision makers by identifying regional priorities, for example in vocational education and training provision, and by providing regional insight on labour market challenges and opportunities.

RSLGs form part of the Reform of Vocational Education (RoVE) to create a strong, unified, sustainable vocational education system fit for the future. They provide advice about the skills needs of their regions to the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC), Workforce Development Councils (WDCs) and local vocational education providers. RSLGs are key to building an understanding of the evolving RoVE landscape, particularly as components of RoVE begin to mature and solidify their place in system-wide changes.

The systems approach discussed throughout this response incorporates the Employment, Education and Training (EET) Ministers Group, who discuss and make decisions on central government agency work programmes that impact the EET system. The EET process is supported by officials from agencies relevant to EET portfolios.

EET Minsters include:

  • Minister of Education, Minister for Social Development and Employment
  • Minister of Finance
  • Minister of Agriculture
  • Minister for Economic and Regional Development, Tourism
  • Minister of Immigration, Workplace Relations and Safety, Transport
  • Minister for Māori Development
  • Minister for Women.

Whakamana Tāngata [PDF 8.67 MB](external link) — Welfare Expert Advisory Group

RSLGs’ regional leadership contributes to a joined-up approach to regional workforce planning

RSLGs play an important regional leadership role by forming genuine partnerships with their local stakeholders to address regional challenges. RSLG members bring expertise from the private and community sectors, as well as iwi/hapū/Māori knowledge. RSLGs’ power is in combining this knowledge with the support of central government agency functions and expertise.

The delivery of RWPs in mid-2022 marks a significant milestone for RSLGs and provides a powerful opportunity to align with government agencies for regional workforce and skills planning and development. The plans have been well received locally and progress is already underway on regional actions.

While focusing on regional solutions for regional problems, RWPs also highlight national issues within the remit of central government agencies. Central government agencies* welcome the opportunity to respond to the cross-cutting themes raised in RWPs, and to consider how RSLGs and central government agencies can work together to implement the plans and refresh them for the future.

*Government agencies covers those with a national and regional presence.

The response themes are based on issues raised across multiple RWPs

This response addresses the themes raised across the 15 RWPs rather than the 350 plus actions proposed across the plans. The themes-based approach allows us to consider the cross-cutting issues identified in multiple RWPs.

Each theme is addressed in a separate section of this response, although the content is interlinked. The themes are:

  • Better coordination of workforce and skills planning
  • Sustainable, decent and inclusive employment
  • Kia eke te ahumahi Māori – Māori workforce and industry success
  • Rangatahi transitions from education to further training and employment
  • Overcoming barriers to accessing education and employment.

Central government agencies recognise the importance of the themes, many of which are complex and long-standing.

While the themes in this response are relevant across Aotearoa, the RWPs demonstrate that they affect regions differently. Central government agencies acknowledge the need for regionally-tailored solutions to specific regional challenges.

The response does not address issues relating to specific sectors due to the variety of priority sectors across regions. Feedback from RSLG co-chairs during the development of the response, however, noted that there is particular interest from RSLGs in health workforce issues. MBIE officials are pursuing ways for RSLGs to connect with relevant agencies, such as the session organised for RSLG co-chairs with Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora in December 2022 to discuss and understand the regional infrastructure and delivery within the health workforce space.

Te ao Māori is considered throughout the response

The response’s consideration of te ao Māori reflects the importance of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and He Whakaputanga to both the Crown and RSLGs. RSLGs promote the voice of Māori through their co-governance model and regional relationships. Conversations about optimising regional labour markets include perspectives from hapū, iwi and Māori as they articulate what is needed to manifest their rangatiratanga as workers, employers and key actors within regional economies.

This is fundamental to the Crown’s kāwanatanga role as Te Tiriti partner. Understanding the needs and aspirations of Māori enables Government to respond by supporting the creation of the right conditions in regions to support rangatiratanga.

Te Rōpū Whaiti – the RSLG co-chairs rōpū who whakapapa Māori – met with Minister Sepuloni in April 2022 and identified 4 priority areas, then reviewed the RWP actions and noted that one third have an an explicit te ao Māori perspective. The 4 priority areas are:

  • Mā te Māori, Mō te Māori – challenges for Māori are best addressed through a Mā te Māori, Mō te Māori (by Māori, for Māori) approach
  • Rangatahi – for rangatahi, Māoritanga must be acknowledged in their workforce participation
  • Addressing funding coordination failures – exploring how the co-chair regional intelligence can support agencies to enable the expansion of effective local initiatives
  • Correcting disparities – underpinning these priorities is an effort to correct disparities for Māori through education success, decent wages, and fulfilling employment.

The actions from the RWPs provide a clearer understanding of what Māori workers and employers need in order achieve their aspirations or to be self-actualising. Working together with hapū and iwi demonstrates what is needed for Māori authorities to be self-managing and empowered actors within the labour market. Underpinning this active partnership with hapū and iwi is the common goal to work toward Ōritetanga or quality participation achieved through Te Tiriti partnership.

Some central government agencies are responding directly to RSLGs

Some central government agencies intend to respond directly to RSLGs on specific actions relating to their work programmes. For example, the TEC provided individual responses to RSLGs in October 2022 with feedback on the actions in each RWP. Te Pūkenga has also outlined that it intends to provide an individual response to the RWPs.

The TEC response to RSLGs also provided information to clarify the emerging roles of RoVE actors and distinguish the remit of actors within the vocational education and training (VET) system. For example, the response outlined what the TEC can impact directly through investment versus changes requiring upfront work with other groups such as the WDCs. It provided information on how TEC investment priorities are used and what does or does not qualify for investment funding. Therefore, VET-related issues are not addressed in this response as they have already been addressed more fulsomely by the TEC than is possible here.

There is clear alignment between the themes raised in RWPs and central government agency priorities

The labour market and workforce planning ecosystem encompasses a broad suite of initiatives, involving multiple agencies at both a national and a regional level. Given this complexity, alignment is particularly important. It is encouraging to see the alignment between the themes raised in the plans and the current and future work programmes of central government agencies. Many RWPs include actions that are aligned to central government agency activities, and some RSLGs are already seeking to leverage agency activity in their regions.

This response provides information on agency activity that may not yet be on some RSLG radars. One of the key purposes of this response is to raise awareness of central government agency work that helps to advance RSLG goals. Some of this information is contained in the body of the response. More information on relevant programmes is provided in Annex 1.

Annex 1: Additional information on central government agency programmes

This response is an opportunity to clarify how central government agencies and RSLGs can work together to achieve shared goals …

Central government agencies have different levels of familiarity with RSLGs and their role. This is often dependent on the extent to which each agency is connected to labour market planning. Another key purpose of this response is to clarify how central government agencies and RSLGs can work together to achieve their shared goals, particularly in a context where central government agency work programmes are already determined by delivery commitments to Ministers.

RSLGs are already working closely with agencies in their regions, including senior regional officials, such as Ministry of Social Development (MSD) Regional Commissioners or Ministry of Education (MoE) Directors of Education. Agency collaboration is supported by Regional Public Service Commissioners (RPSCs), who sit as members of RSLGs. Officials from government agency regional offices attend many RSLG meetings, and several RSLGs have asked their MBIE secretariat to establish officials’ groups to ensure central government agency information and programmes are informed by, and support the work of, RSLGs.

A wider group of government officials from regional offices were part of the consultation for the development of RWPs. RSLGs are already working with agencies at a regional level to progress those actions.

RSLGs’ roles have been set out in both the Terms of Reference and the annual letter of expectations from the Minister for Social Development and Employment. However, the ways in which central government agencies (outside the RoVE process) can work with RSLGs have been less clear. RSLGs can share regional insights and views with central government agencies; however, this may not necessarily influence policy development in certain areas, such as immigration.

This response looks to establish some clarity on how RSLGs and central government agencies can collaborate going forward, with the refresh of the current RWPs and development of future RWPs in mind.

… and create stronger connections across the 26 organisations involved in the development of this response

MBIE officials have led the development of this response, bringing together the views of 26 national organisations: 17 central government agencies, 2 crown entities, the 6 WDCs and Te Pūkenga (Annex 2 contains a list of all participating organisations).

MBIE first established a cross-agency Government Response Officials Group in May 2022 to discuss the themes emerging in early drafts of the RWPs. The Group included agencies whose work programmes were directly relevant to the labour market challenges and opportunities identified. Following the delivery of the RWPs, the Group agreed on the cross-cutting themes to be included in this response and worked collaboratively on relevant themes.

The draft response was sent to all organisations for consultation before being presented first to EET Deputy Chief Executives, then to EET Chief Executives and finally to the EET Ministers Group. The final response has been reviewed by the Minister for Social Development and Employment, Hon Carmel Sepuloni.

RSLGs and central government agencies are continuing work on how best to build a cohesive, coordinated labour market planning system at both a national and regional level. The future focus of this response recognises that this is an evolving process and working together is the most effective way to ensure we achieve our shared objectives.

Annex 2: List of national stakeholders involved in the development of the cross-agency response

The sections of the response are structured around a broadly consistent format

Each theme section covers:

  • key issues highlighted in RWPs within the theme
  • the alignment with government priorities
  • existing or planned key central government agency programmes designed to help address issues within the theme
  • opportunities for RSLGs and central government agencies to work together to inform, shape and influence the labour market planning ecosystem, both nationally and regionally.