Tauranga's annual two-week long career and business showcase gets under way this week with a "learning for life" theme.
According to the organisers, Western Bay @ Work aims to highlight the depth and vibrancy of career opportunities in the region, with a focus on developing transferrable skills and attracting new businesses to the area.
The first event is Tauranga Careers & Business Expo at the ASB Arena this Friday and Saturday, with related events scheduled over the following two weeks.
"In terms of careers expos, Western Bay @ Work is unique to our region," said Lyn Parlane, INSTEP manager for Priority One. "I don't think there are many careers expos throughout New Zealand that have the level of business engagement or business presence that we have. Rotary and Priority One have been working in partnership for several years and we're proud of what we've achieved."
The Tauranga Rotary runs the skills and training side of the expo, with Priority One hosting the business, innovation and careers showcase highlighting career and industry opportunities. The joint expo was aimed at both high school and tertiary students, as well as the general public.
"Western Bay @ Work wants people to stop and think about their career because it's a lifelong process and it's changing all the time, with jobs disappearing and new ones being created," said Ms Parlane.
Greg Simmonds, Priority One's strategic projects manager, said the collaborative approach between industry and training providers had brought high schools on board. "We're seeing an increase in the number of parents coming back," he said. "The schools all go on the Friday, then the parents come back on Saturday with their children. The key element has been that they can talk to employers and get a real sense of what employers are looking for from both a skills perspective and questions and what kind of skills training is relevant. The businesses are quite open in talking about that."
Mr Simmonds said that two of the big opportunities in terms of workforce and skill development were around upskilling older people in the region, as well as addressing the big opportunity represented by the youthful Maori demographic, where 35 per cent were under 15.
"We need to look at our education initiatives and links with employers and skill needs to ensure these people have the right skills to take up the opportunities."
Sara Lunam, corporate services manager for Port of Tauranga, who is one of Western Bay @ Work's business ambassadors, said the port supported the initiative and said it was in everybody's best interests to grow and facilitate career transition. "The Bay is considered a nice to place to live and retire," she said.
"We need to change people's paradigm about what the Bay is and get some direction and passion behind building talent in this area."