Wāhaka tuatahi : Titiro whakamuri, titiro whakamua | Chapter 1: Looking back, looking forward

Tā mātau huarahi whai | Our changing approach

This past year, the RSLG has extensively engaged throughout Otago, linking people, ideas, and programmes together and advocating for positive change for our region. Our sincere thanks to all who have worked with us despite a year of critical skills shortages. We have listened to you. Our engagement across Otago has allowed us to deepen our understanding of the common structural issues – or “themes” – that are evident across our diverse region, and the common underlying causes of these. This gets us closer to the solutions-based approach we are striving for. We invite everyone in the region to jump on board as we continue this journey. We have also continued to build positive relationships with whānau throughout the region and look forward to further discussing the distinct workforce needs of mana whenua and the wider Māori business community. The year to come is exciting for the RSLG. We look forward to working with and supporting the region in this dynamic labour market environment.

Developing our understanding and advancing our thinking, striving for a solutions-based approach

While the needs and challenges of Otago’s workforce remain dynamic and geographically nuanced, our mahi in the last year has uncovered structural issues evident across the Otago labour market as a whole. This insight will inform our mahi going forward.

In looking to develop a more fulsome understanding of labour market conditions, the RSLG has spent time analysing issues such as internal labour supply (along with much of the developed world, New Zealand faces declining birth rates and a high average duration of retirement, which results in reduced labour supply for workforce replacement and/or growth of industry), immigration (the global “war for talent”), and economic structure (the structure of our economy means that it contains a higher proportion of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and micro businesses than other developed economies). As a result – with changing demographics and increased international competition for skilled migrants in mind – we recognised the need to better understand our underutilised workforces and explore the potential of skills for productivity-enhancing technologies.

We combined this understanding with qualitative evidence from our engagement in communities and further detailed economic analysis and landed on “themes” that the RSLG will look to focus on going forward.

This Regional Workforce Plan (RWP) update elaborates on these recurring labour market ‘themes’ in detail. They are:

  • economically vulnerable Otago communities
  • skills for technological change
  • untapped potential in the Otago labour market.

Defining and quantifying these structural themes in our labour market is important. It helps us to build a more precise understanding of the issues we face and strive for solutions. It also enables us to better advocate for Otago when engaging with stakeholders and partners. The themes also help us to think more deeply, and longer-term, on Otago’s future labour market success as we look to unlock (and futureproof) our potential as a region, and ultimately get our people into good jobs.

Identifying and supporting better ways of meeting Otago’s regional skills and workforce needs

Over the past 12 months, the RSLG continued to work with our region to develop, identify and support initiatives that seek improved labour market outcomes, and boost the skills of our workforce. Notable examples of this mahi include:

  • Providing advice to the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) that highlighted Otago’s regional workforce priorities and forecasted industry demand profile.
  • Working with Mahi QL, a collaboration led by Queenstown Chamber of Commerce, Regional Tourism Organisations, Government agencies, employers, and employees to address workforce challenges across the district.
  • Working with transport and digital providers to ensure workforce development is considered as network provision is planned.
  • Working with entities in the Waitaki District to identify appropriate ways to provide in-work training provision.
  • Working with Otago Regional Economic Development (ORED) to ensure regional workforce considerations are incorporated into economic development strategies across Otago.
  • Hosting Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley to discuss demographic change in Otago and its long-term effects on our labour market.
  • Meeting with employer, workforce, economic development, and community representatives from each of Otago’s Territorial Local Authority areas (TLAs).

Working by, with and for Māori

The Māori economy is a small but unique part of our region’s economy. Māori workforce needs and aspirations are also unique, and varied – they differ for mana whenua, Māori business owners and for Māori as workers. The RSLG has sought to understand and analyse this as we have spent the last year working by, with, and for Māori actors in the Otago labour market.

Hui at both Moeraki and Puketeraki rūnaka have been invaluable to the RSLG over the last year, and we look forward to an upcoming hui at Ōtākou. Our thanks to Dr Mike Stevens and Dr Eruera Tarena; your whakaaro has helped us build the initial understanding we needed to begin to comprehend the Māori economy and awhi whānau labour market aspirations in the region.