Matariki - a time for refresh and renewal


The Waikato Regional Skills Leadership Group (RSLG) is pleased to provide an update on its Regional Workforce Plan[1] (RWP), launched in July 2022. This update includes a progress report on the plan's actions and outcomes to date, as well as new areas of focus and investment recommendations to the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC).

In releasing our Regional Workforce Plan refresh, it is timely that we do this leading up to Matariki where we look back on where we've come from with a renewed vision on where and how we are travelling to the world ahead.

As we look back, Covid is squarely in the rear-view mirror and while we are in the space of 'living with Covid' what is more apparent to us all are the work force challenges and how we prepare ourselves for current and future skills needs.

The recent storms and the impacts in the Waikato Region are stark reminders that the timescale of what were one in one-hundred-year extreme weather events, appear to be the new norm. We acknowledge the impact this has had on our roads and the challenges faced within the Thames-Coromandel District. With investment going into infrastructure to rebuild roads and water plants (water supply and wastewater treatment), having a skilled and capable infrastructure workforce will be critical.

The energy landscape in the Waikato region is undergoing a transformation, with investment in renewable energy sources such as solar arrays and wood pellet plants to replace coal as an energy source. Additionally, the region is transitioning to electric vehicles and exploring the potential of hydrogen fuel as a viable alternative.

The West Coast from Taranaki to the Waikato is currently being evaluated for the potential of offshore wind energy. We have observed the recent visits of both corporate and lwi representatives exploring these sites between Aotearoa New Zealand and Europe.

Statistics New Zealand's regional greenhouse gas emissions estimates, activities within the Waikato region generated approximately 16.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2021, compared to 15.2 in 2007. Despite fluctuations during this period, the Waikato region needs to navigate its way towards reducing its carbon footprint to meet 2030 and 2050 carbon reduction goals. The regional workforce is on this journey and the RSLG is pleased to support industry partners to assess the needs.

We further acknowledge the significant growth in digital skills and technology and note that the Hi-Tech sector at -$15 billion per year is the second largest exporter for Aotearoa New Zealand, where salaries are typically twice that of the national average. Te Waka Anga Whakamua Waikato (Regional Economic Development Agency) is active in bringing together tech companies and assisting them to show case opportunities.

The Waikato Region relies on seasonal workers to fulfil workforce needs for the health, hospitality and primary sector. We are also deepening our relationships with Immigration New Zealand to help identify barriers, bringing specific examples to the front where assistance can be provided.

As we look forward in the refresh of the RWP1 we are pleased to bring focus to some key areas that will make a difference:


The challenge of the 'leaky pipe' is one that is shared by many regions across the country, where young people struggle to see themselves in future careers. To ensure that our education system is successful, it is essential that the tertiary sector provides support to help young people move into fulfilling and worthwhile employment. Smart Waikato's programme to connect rangatahi with industry is a good example of this, and it is heartening to see other regions taking up the initiative. We further recognise that pastoral care, plays a crucial role and we are working with the MoE, TEC and MSD on how we may do this in an impactful way.

Futures Academy

We are working in partnership with the Food and Fibre Centre of Vocational Excellence to evaluate the training requirements of farmers and their staff. Our initial area of focus is dairy farming, and we have discussed the potential for establishing a Futures Academy. An academy would bring together existing programmes and may even suggest the introduction of new ones, to meet the needs of farmers and their staff.

Apprentice Re-Boot

In the Construction and Infrastructure space we have heard from sector members of the requirement to re-visit a past apprenticeship programme (previously coordinated by Wintec) with industry, MSD and Waihanga Ara Rau and Hanga Aro Rau Workforce Development Councils.


Waikato Tainui's Waharoa programme stands out as a scheme that we are keen to support and help flourish.

Freight & Logistics

Te Waka has done much to support the sector around drivers licencing and we acknowledge that further work is ongoing in this space to give it the depth and breadth of cover that the sector needs.

Sector groups

We are committed to bringing together stakeholders from across the Waikato Region to collaborate and share their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities facing the region. In the coming year, we will be inviting interested parties to join sector forums to ensure their voices are heard.

Digital Technology

We recognise the potential of combining learning and gaming to create engaging experiences that appeal to people of all ages. We are committed to highlighting the opportunities this presents for education providers to explore and benefit from.


Health is the largest employer in the region, and we are pleased to welcome some new talent to focus on the sector. Given the sector is large we will pick some key areas to delve into and support.


Hospitality will get a focus too and we look forward to what will come with new talent joining the Waikato RSLG.

Our vision for the next 12 months

The RSLG is committed to achieving the aspirations and actions outlined in the RWP. The RWP's four pou - Ōritetanga (Equity), He Tangata (People), Whakangungu ahumahi (Industry Training), and Te anga whakamua (The future) - emphasise the importance of equity and resilience in achieving desired outcomes. The progress on 2022 - 2023 actions of the report include details on the progress made in these areas to date.

Details of these pou, looking backward and forward, are provided in the Regional Progress section. Prioritisation sets the agenda in terms of what truly matters, and this is reflected in how resources are allocated. Stakeholder engagement was instrumental in helping the RSLGto identify and prioritise the necessary actions outlined in the RWP, while still being able to meet the desired outcomes of the workforce plan.

In response to strategic workforce needs, emerging trends or opportunities impacting the workforce, and perennial mismatches in labour supply and demand, the TEC has requested investment cases from each of the RSLGs. The RSLGhas also been guided by funding advice provided by woes, as outlined in the Labour Market Insights section.

The Healthy Communities section introduces a new area of interest, exploring opportunities to enhance skill levels and increase the representation of Māori and Pasifika in the sector. This includes clarifying and strengthening pathways, along with recommendations and potential actions aimed at achieving these and other goals.

Closing comments

Lastly, we acknowledge that Te Pūkenga, is going through the final stages of its change process. In the third quarter of this year, we look forward to the Waikato RSLG, Workforce Development Councils and Te Pūkenga working together to bring a complete
perspective of region needs and delivery together for the benefit of our community.

We look forward to receiving your feedback on the refreshed RWP for the Waikato RSLG.

Mauri ora!

Portrait of Brendon Green

Brendon Green

Portrait of Keith Ikin

Keith lkin


[1] Waikato Regional Workforce Plan 2022