Workforce and skills needs are the focus of a new group set up to support the changing labour market in the region.

A Regional Skills Leadership Group (RSLG) has been established for the Manawatū-Whanganui region, one of 15 groups the Government has set up throughout New Zealand.

"These groups were planned before the arrival of Covid-19 as part of a joined up approach to labour market planning which will see our workforce, education and immigration systems working together to better meet the differing skills needs across the country," Minister for Employment Willie Jackson said.

The Manawatū-Whanganui Group will be chaired by Ruma Karaitiana who is also chairman of Rangitāne o Manawatū Kaitiaki Ltd and Rangitāne o Manawatū Investment Trust, as well as a member of the Regional Economic Recovery Taskforce and Accelerate25.

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"Identified as an enabler for increasing job opportunities and quality of life in the Manawatū-Whanganui Economic Action Plan, Accelerate25's Skills and Talent Advisory Group have formed into the Regional Skills Leadership Group," Karaitiana said.

"Membership includes regional industry leaders, economic development agencies, iwi, and worker and government representatives, who will all contribute their knowledge and local expertise.

"Thanks to the Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation support of data analysts, policy advisers and workforce specialists we will be able to further understand the impact that Covid-19 is having on jobs in our region, helping us to tailor the support needed at a local level."

Whanganui & Partners staff member Hannah Kelly will be a member of the Manawatū/Whanganui group.

"The group will identify workforce and skills needs in our region and advise on how to meet these needs," Kelly said.

"Establishing the groups was planned before Covid but the impact to the local labour market has really highlighted the importance of co-ordination in this area."

Kelly said the group's recommendations will inform government activities and decisions relating to local employment, such as around welfare and immigration systems. The group will also influence local initiatives that affect the region's workforce.

"Schools and careers advisers will get clearer information about in-demand skills, employers will get support for attracting school leavers, and training providers will be able to tailor their programmes to meet local labour force and skills needs. Ultimately, the goal is to develop a pipeline that benefits both local workers and employers."

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Karaitiana said the group will be "the eyes and ears on the ground".

"The Manawatū-Whanganui region has lower labour force participation and employment rates than the national average. As we are transitioning from emergency management to longer-term recovery efforts, this group will work to get our region the best support possible."

The Manawatū-Whanganui group will work with local and national initiatives, including a Workforce Development Council. The council will focus on industry specific training needs across New Zealand, while RSLG will offer a regional perspective on skills needs.

They will be supported by a team of data analysts, policy advisors and workforce specialists at the Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation.

"Addressing the immediate and future demand of our key industries, and utilising significant investment opportunities in our region, will create economic recovery that is inclusive and also achieves social outcomes."

In the longer term the groups will develop regional workforce plans, which project labour supply needs to ensure the regions have the right skills and workforce planning to seize local economic opportunities.