Overcoming barriers to accessing education and employment

RWPs focus on identifying, understanding and removing barriers to participation in the labour market

Access to education, employment and training is raised as both a challenge and an opportunity across multiple RWPs. While RWPs mention opportunities and challenges for all population groups accessing education and employment, they place a particular focus on school leavers, particularly given the impact of COVID-19.

RWPs identify a range of barriers to participation, including physical barriers, such as digital connectivity and transport, as well as barriers such as a lack of information or culturally appropriate services for priority groups. These barriers affect regions differently, depending on the geography and demographic composition of the region. It should also be recognised that there are community members who face intersectional disadvantage, such as tāngata whaikaha, which adds to the complexity of some of the barriers faced by people entering the labour market. Several RSLGs have included a focus on increasing participation of disabled people in the workforce and are committed to removing barriers for this important and underutilised potential regional workforce.

Underlying this focus in the RWPs is the understanding that inequitable access not only impacts individuals and the community but also creates barriers to labour market development and economic growth. Removing barriers to employment, education and training will improve the quality of life for individuals and provide an accessible education system and labour market for all, increasing workforce participation levels.

The aligns with the broader Government focus on supporting all learners, workers and job seekers to fulfil their aspirations

Education priorities

Barrier-free access to education is 1 of the 5 objectives of the Statement of National Education and Learning Priorities (NELP) and Tertiary Education Strategy (TES). Reducing barriers to education for all, especially Māori and Pacific learners/ākonga, disabled learners/ākonga and those with learning support needs, will enable rewarding education opportunities and outcomes to be within reach for every learner. RoVE also seeks to make training more accessible, with a goal that learners will be able to move more easily between regions and continue training easily if their situation changes. New national skills standards and assessments will underpin this goal.

Employment priorities

Similarly, a key tenet of the Employment Strategy is the commitment to ensure that anyone who wants to participate in the labour market can access decent work. This includes workers and job seekers having equal access to employment opportunities and being supported to fulfil their employment aspirations, if required, through tailored, evidence-based initiatives that respond to individual, whānau, community and industry circumstances. It also includes businesses offering flexible working conditions as a default, having diverse workforce representation at all levels, and knowing where to go for support from Government to create accessible workplaces.

Work is underway by agencies to improve access to education, employment support and training

Equity and Ākonga Success Strategy

One of the TEC’s goals is to achieve system-level equity in terms of patterns of participation and achievement for all tertiary learners. An initiative that contributes to this goal is the Te Pūkenga Equity and Ākonga Success Strategy. The strategy provides a 10-year road map for how Te Pūkenga will create equitable access and participation for all ākonga and increase the responsiveness of learning and support practices. The strategy focuses on those who have not been well-served by the current system, including Māori, Pacific and disabled ākonga. It describes how Te Pūkenga will seek to remove barriers to access, participation, persistence, and completion of qualifications through changes to learner support, qualification design, kaimahi and employer capability, and an increased understanding of ākonga socio-cultural and financial realities.

Implementation of Te Pūkenga Equity and Ākonga Success Strategy will be supported by the Te Pūkenga Operating Model, a key focus of which is advancing equity, especially for Māori, Pacific, and learners with disabilities. Similarly, WDCs have a commitment in their Order in Council secondary legislation to address the needs of underserved learners, including Māori, Pacific peoples and disabled people. An example of this commitment is the appointment of a GM Disability across all 6 WDCs.

Equity and Ākonga Success Strategy [PDF 452 KB](external link)

Operating Model(external link) — Te Pūkenga

Employment and Social Outcomes Investment Strategy 2022–2025

MSD’s Employment and Social Outcomes Investment Strategy aims to address barriers to help achieve work readiness and sustainable employment outcomes. The strategy targets investment according to the individuals’ needs and barriers, such as a lack of work experience or suitable qualifications. It also aims to promote equity for groups that consistently experience poor labour market outcomes to increase labour market participation.

The strategy informs national and regional investment and purchasing decisions about MSD’s employment services, while providing flexibility to support regional investment choices to meet local conditions.

Employment and Social Outcomes Investment Strategy [PDF 3 MB](external link)

Driver Licensing Improvement Programme

Waka Kotahi and MSD are working together on delivery of the Budget 2022 initiative for funding driver licence support services. Lack of access to driver licensing education and testing in the regions was raised across many RWPs as a barrier to education and employment. This 4-year initiative will see MSD increase access to funded driver licence support for people most disadvantaged by barriers to gaining driver licences (including establishing a joined-up system with effective referral pathways). It also funds Waka Kotahi to increase access to testing through actions such as mobile theory testing and increased practical testing in remote areas. Waka Kotahi-led regional trials are currently underway in Te Tai Tokerau and Tairāwhiti. Waka Kotahi has also committed to a range of actions to build sector capability and capacity, as well as providing more accessible educational resources for learner drivers.

Driver licensing support is part of a wider ecosystem and requires a whole of system approach, which involves working across multiple agencies and addressing broader accessibility barriers. This creates a complex area with many components, so overcoming this barrier to accessing education and employment will take time.

Future of Connectivity

MBIE and Crown Infrastructure Partners are leading a 3 part programme to improve digital connectivity infrastructure across New Zealand to allow more people better access to mobile phone and internet services. RWPs identified that a lack of digital connectivity in areas of New Zealand, particularly rural areas, creates a barrier to both education and employment.

Part 1 of the programme saw completion of the Ultra-Fast Broadband programme to enable 87 per cent of all households and businesses (and most schools) to access fibre broadband and extend mobile and fixed wireless broadband further into rural areas. Part 2 is currently underway and will further upgrade rural capacity, as well as extending the Marae Digital Connectivity Initiative and the roll-out of a Remote Users Scheme to provide connectivity options for people in rural and remote areas with no access to broadband internet. Part 3 will present a suite of digital connectivity infrastructure projects that aim to provide everyone in Aotearoa the ability to access the internet and voice calling services required to live, work and study. These will be guided by the Government’s statement of intent for improving digital connectivity, Lifting Connectivity in Aotearoa.

MoE is exploring home internet access specifically for schools and students who do not have suitable access to support their learning. Potential solutions include schools, often in rural and remote areas, becoming a ‘digital hub’ for their community, or schools accessing MoE’s Equitable Digital Access for Students initiative. There are currently pilots in Wellington, Christchurch and Bay of Plenty to extend fibre broadband into students’ homes.

Home internet access(external link) — Ministry of Education

Digital hub(external link) — Ministry of Education

Equitable Digital Access for Students(external link) — Ministry of Education

Older Workers Employment Action Plan (OWEAP)

Ministry of Social Development is leading the implementation of the OWEAP for people aged 50 and over who are working or want or need to work but experience challenges in doing so. Many RWPs identified the barriers that older workers face regarding access to education and employment. The purpose of the OWEAP is to ensure that older New Zealanders who want or need to work can find sustainable employment that fulfils their needs and aspirations and contributes to their overall wellbeing. Many of the actions will also support older workers who face compounding barriers in the labour market, including Māori, women, Pacific peoples, disabled people, former refugees, recent migrants, and ethnic communities. The Minister for Seniors is the responsible Minister for delivery of the 11 actions in the OWEAP, and progress is monitored through quarterly reporting to the Minister and 6-monthly reporting to EET Ministers.

Action 10 of the OWEAP is to improve understanding across industry groupings and sectors of the effects and opportunities of an ageing workforce. MSD is taking a collaborative approach focusing on exchanging information to identify sectors with:

  • workforce gaps that older workers could fill given the right support, training or encouragement
  • significant ageing workforces where people may need training, upskilling or other supports to remain in that work
  • ageing workforces where people are unlikely to stay in those roles as they age.

Central government agencies have identified opportunities to collaborate with RSLGs to overcome barriers

Annex 1 contains information on key central government agency programmes relevant to the RWPs that seek to overcome barriers to education and employment for specific groups. Agencies encourage RSLGs to engage with and share this information with their networks. Officials may be able to present information about specific programmes at RSLG meetings.

  • Driver licensing is identified as key to increasing access to employment and upskilling in all 15 RWPs. The cross-agency Driver Licensing Improvement Programme (DLIP) is preparing a future state framework for the driver licensing system beyond this year’s Budget initiatives. The framework can be provided when finalised in 2023 to inform the regions.
  • Central government agencies can also provide more information about progress in the Future of Connectivity project, focusing on connectivity for people in remote and rural areas.
  • Central government agencies may seek connections to potential regional providers for accessibility programmes (for example, the Future of Connectivity, the MoE initiatives on home internet access, and digital literacy training programmes). Agencies would like to connect with RSLGs to understand accessibility barriers and leverage their regional networks. EET agencies will consider the regional workforce and skills development priorities identified in the RWPs in the development of their own priorities and initiatives.
  • Central government agencies also value the identification of gaps in provision or examples of regional best practice that result from the mapping of regional provision.

Annex 1: Additional information on central government agency programmes