Local insights Report: September 2023

Te Purunga ki Te Raki Local Insights Report: September 2023.

You are welcome to quote from any report below – please attribute the Te Purunga ki Te Raki Regional Skills Leadership Group, an independent advisory group on regional skills and workforce development. ​

Top regional insights

Taitokerau is experiencing low vocational, tertiary and skills outcomes

Intergenerational poverty is persistent, and it has been exacerbated by the increasing cost of living, digital inequity, and the decreasing affordability of study.

Taitamariki are having to trade-off between different wellbeing factors, due to the cost of living

It is more attractive and pragmatic to work and earn an income, so taitamariki are choosing not to pursue the skills development that positions them for more sustainable employment with higher income and better career progression. Career changers face a similar challenge, particularly as it is more pragmatic to remain in their current employment than go back to study. As a result, there is low uptake of education and training opportunities which is reflected by these outcomes – 9% of the region’s population is receiving Jobseeker Support (the highest in Aotearoa).

Benefit fact sheets snapshot June 2023 [PDF, 2.5MB](external link) — Ministry of Social Development

The ‘not in employment, education or training’ (NEET) rate for Taitokerau has reached 14.5% (compared to the national rate of 11.7% in the June 2023 quarter) and the percentage of ākonga enrolled in tertiary education one year after leaving school is lower than the rest of the country, 53.4%, compared to 59.3% nationally. The challenge then is how to upskill our people in a way that recognises these lived realities which is preventing access to training? RSLG suggests ‘Earn as you Learn’ (EAYL) is a way to address this challenge.

RSLG identified EAYL is most likely to have impact in the Hauora/Health, Construction and Horticulture sectors

Health and Construction are sectors where the workforce needs to grow at scale and pace to meet demand. In the Construction and Infrastructure sector, the $10B infrastructure builds scheduled over the next 8 years makes it imperative that the current skills gaps are addressed, as pressure on this workforce is going to grow exponentially.

In Health, the cost of study exacerbates lower participation in this sector. Roles that require clinical placements provide insufficient or no compensation, so ākonga struggle to meet living costs. It is also common for students in Taitokerau who are pursuing a health qualification to have to undertake a bridging course (as a result of not taking science and maths in high school). This means it takes longer to become qualified, putting earning adequate income to support living costs further out of reach.

In Horticulture, given the nature of the mahi, skills are best developed through work but due to the highly seasonable nature of the mahi there are challenges to ākonga accessing sustainable employment while they develop their skills. EAYL, would make qualifications more attractive and pragmatic for ākonga to pursue, and could help these sectors retain ākonga. 

Regional activities

Implementing EAYL as a regional solution will require a coordinated and collaborative approach. A regional solution relies on intentional action from education and training providers, private sector, investment partners and government policy and operations. Through a ‘working group’, Te Purunga ki Te Raki Taitokerau RSLG begun exploring what implementing a regional solution will require. We brought together Te Pūkenga, NorthTec and the Tertiary Education Commission in August 2023 to have an initial kōrero. This highlighted what challenges industry and providers experience when supporting ākonga to reach their potential. Alongside these challenges, we have identified below how EAYL is an opportunity to address these challenges.

Top labour market challenges

Transplanting training programmes designed elsewhere is not meeting local industry or worker needs

EAYL could help address this challenge by better integrating training with local industry needs. For example, local employers are reporting differences in technical ‘language’ which makes it harder for ākonga to gain employment locally. Restructuring training programmes so they are designed and delivered locally through mahi, will help our ākonga enter the workforce with the right technical language, positioning them to succeed.

Current verification of learning achieved through work is not pragmatic, given industry constraints

Photo evidence is a common method used by training providers to verify EAYL standards, however this might not be suitable for health and safety requirements in certain occupations such as arborists or for employers which have secure facilities.

Employers’ ability to provide manaaki to ākonga is sporadic

Smaller businesses find it harder to deliver the same wraparound support as larger organisations with dedicated staff. Smaller businesses might not be able to employ assessors, impacting their ability to provide skill development. Effective manaaki and EAYL models will be different for different sectors.

There is inconsistent support transitioning ākonga from employment to education

More consistent support and collaboration between education and employers is required. The ability to transition into permanent mahi right after qualifying is important to ākonga confidence and key to retaining talent within Taitokerau, however many smaller providers are not resourced to provide the level of support required. For many ākonga, viewing it as a ‘transition’ might not adequately reflect their lived experiences as most have to work while they study. EAYL better recognises this lived experience, by providing the opportunity to earn income while providing a clear line of sight to employment directly related to the qualification.

Top labour market opportunites

RSLG is incorporating the working group’s insights into its investment advice to TEC in November

Given the benefits EAYL could have for ākonga in the Hauora, Construction and Infrastructure, and Horticulture sectors, RSLG will recommend that TEC increase availability of the following qualifications, but specifically via work-based delivery to encourage EAYL:

  • Horticulture: Certificate in Horticulture (Level 3), Certificate in Horticulture Production (Level 4) and Certificate in Horticulture Services (Level 4).
  • Construction: Diploma in Construction (Level 6) with strands in Construction Management, and Quantity Surveying, Certificate in Carpentry (Level 4). RSLG will also recommend there is investment in the higher level education required to increase the supply of quantity surveyors, geotechnical analysis roles and engineers. Other key occupation gaps highlighted include project managers, skilled labourers and electrical roles.
  • Hauora / Health: RSLG will highlight the need for nurses and kāiawhina (caregivers) and emphasise the role EAYL plays in encouraging ākonga into these occupations. Te Whatu Ora and Toitū te Waiora are already leading work to develop EAYL as part of the qualifications needed for these occupations (this is being undertaken as part of their Qualification Review starting November 2023). RSLG will support this mahi to be developed locally by promoting regionally tailored implementation and helping the national Toitū te Waiora team foster relationships on the ground, particularly with mana whenua.

The RSLG will promote good practice examples from training providers who offer on the job learning

For example, Smart Trade Solutions work with both the employer and their apprentice to identify potential barriers and challenges, then encourage them to establish study habits that help mitigate any issues before they start. RSLG also closely connects with Te Hiku Iwi Development Trust Tupu Programme – a locally designed and delivered programme that supported 20 young workers to gain qualification in Horticulture, while transitioning them to full time mahi in the sector. Te Purunga ki Te Raki will continue to support efforts to connect small businesses, and encourage them to collaborate to provide pastoral care through a shared employer network model.

Regional Workforce Plan actions

The RSLG toolkit:

We identify where insights might be needed, where there are ways to improve coordination, and what support is required at a national level to empower us to lead this change. Below is our view on how focusing on EAYL will further particular RWP actions (detailed in our RWP Reflections) in the 3 identified sectors:

RWP reflections

Our Hauora/Health actions target growing the workforce by encouraging participation and completion of health qualifications:

Our RWP signals the pastoral care our Haoura ākonga need to thrive. We believe EAYL could assist with this. 

Growing the Construction and Infrastructure sector requires investment in human capital as well as capital infrastructure:

Having consulted workers, employers and education/training providers, we have heard qualitative insights which emphasize how important the role of pastoral care is in apprenticeships. We know programmes such as the Apprenticeship Boost, makes it easier for employers to take on and keep ākonga, allowing ākonga to keep earning while they gain qualifications. Employers tell us that it helps them increase the diversity of their workforce.

Apprenticeship Boost(external link) — Work and Income NZ

This signals that a coordinated regional approach to EAYL could help attract our bright taitamariki and whānau looking for a career change into the trades and construction sector.

Horticulture sector is to ensure a sustainable and productive workforce with access to decent jobs with wrap-around pastoral care to awhi workers:

We need to explore opportunities to connect growers/employers and education providers to understand an earn learn approach that builds a learner’s capabilities and confidence to thrive in this industry and enrich both industry and worker success.

Trends at a glance

Waihanga Ara Rau estimated there was a shortfall of 8,400 workers in the construction sector in Taitokerau in 2022.

Source: 2022 Regional Construction Workforce Planning(external link), p7 — Waihanga Ara Rau

Taitokerau’s Hauora sector will need an additional 2,000 health professionals by 2028. Nursing is a particular shortfall - Infometrics suggests the nursing workforce will need to increase by 3.7% (330 people trained) by 2028.

Source: Health care and social assistance Northland Region 2022, Detailed occupational employment forecasts by 6 digit occupation, 2022-2028, Infometrics 2023

Infometrics suggests there will be 400 job openings in Horticulture by 2028. Orchard managers is a core skill gap identified in the 2022 RWP.

Source: Infometrics Regional Skills Outlook Primary Industries Forecasts accessed Aug 2023.

Prepared by the regionally led Te Purunga ki Te Raki – Taitokerau Regional Skills Leadership Group.

For further information please contact taitokeraurslg@mbie.govt.nz

Last updated: 24 August 2023