Industry must take a more active role in providing options for youth, writes Kevin Wall.
Matching the skills gaps is crucial for all New Zealand businesses. Many government funded and private training institutions are playing their part to make sure supply and demand are met but industry needs to work closely with schools and training organisations too so students emerge with the right qualifications.
How do we bridge the gap between rising youth unemployment and a lack of skilled drivers in areas such as road transport?
First of all, we need more public-private partnerships, and other partnerships between industry, educational institutions and government.
Industry is driving the job demand, so ultimately industry must take a more active role in providing career options for young people, communicating what the choices are and developing the channels through which young people can transition from school, other training organisations or unemployment.
It must be a long-term and consistent approach rather than a largely reactionary one, as at present.
Is industry doing enough to market and invest in career paths for young people?
No, at the moment very few organisations provide clear career pathways for young people, offering limited marketing in secondary schools. The channels do exist. Many secondary schools have career counselling, and it would be easy to arrange visits to present the options for careers in road transport, but this isn't happening. There is a much greater diversity of career opportunity in the transport sector than most people realise and anyone who is committed and focused can have an interesting and financially rewarding career.
The block is in communication and recruitment, reaching young people who have not committed to a path and want to weigh all their choices.
How is industry attracting and retaining new talent given that apprenticeship schemes aren't always attractive to employers?
In my opinion, industry takes a short-term view and the labour workforce is therefore more transitory these days. Generally the investment in employees isn't what it has been in the past. It's more about meeting the needs of right now. Not enough emphasis is being placed on performance management and staff development.
What can the Government do to make sure people have the core skills required before they enter the workforce, for example, driving licences?
More formalised driver education in schools is not just an industry/workforce issue but a road safety issue, and would benefit the economy and society hugely. One of the impediments to attaining licences is cost and this should be reduced. Once people are on the road to training and increasing their skills, it's easier to keep them there, so Government should be looking at initial incentives to get them there. And for most of us, it's learning to drive a car as teenagers. AMS has launched www.youdrive.co.nz to address driver training among the youth, particularly in schools. Youdrive is designed to work with schools, parents and young drivers to change the negative driving culture.
Where does funding have to focus on upskilling our workforce?
We need to focus on "staircasing" the unemployed into key industries - areas such as transport and civil construction. There is an ongoing shortage of heavy vehicle drivers and machinery operators. The demand for such skills is going to increase with the forecast number of infrastructure projects ranging from the Christchurch rebuild to increased road volumes for both import and export. To remain competitive in the international marketplace, we need to ensure that our existing workforce is being upskilled. Meanwhile our ports around the country must also become more efficient.