New Zealand immigration and education reforms to focus on regions

A new regional approach to skills planning will see New Zealand’s workforce, education and immigration systems work together to better meet the differing skills needs across the country, Ministers have announced.

The Government has launched targeted consultation on the design of 15 Regional Skills Leadership Groups, which are expected to be in place from mid-2020. They support changes to temporary work visas and the Reform of Vocational Education.

“The Regional Skills Leadership Groups will identify workforce and skills needs in their region, both now and in the future, and advise on actions to cultivate these,” Minister of Education Chris Hipkins said.

“The Groups will feature regional industry leaders, economic development agencies, worker representatives, and government organisations. They will develop Regional Workforce Plans, which will project labour supply needs and outline how to create better and more attractive jobs across the region.  Our employer, education, welfare and immigration systems can act on this advice to make sure these skills are developed and available.”

The Tertiary Education Commission will take Regional Skills Leadership Group’s advice into account when making vocational education investment decisions, Hipkins explained.

“We are creating a strong, unified, sustainable system for all vocational education that delivers the skills that learners, employers and communities need to thrive. The advice provided by Regional Skills Leadership Groups will play a big role in this, and be used by the Tertiary Education Commission, Workforce Development Councils, and local vocational education providers.”

MP Willie Jackson said a regional approach will mean more localised and aligned decision-making by employers, workers, educators and agencies.

“Training and education providers will know what skills are in demand, and can tailor their programmes to deliver on these. Our welfare system can support skill-matched employment opportunities and referrals that move people into long-term, fulfilling careers,” Jackson stated.

“Employers can act on this advice to tackle barriers to employment and productivity growth, by pooling resources and offering attractive job opportunities. A coordinated approach will support growing businesses, good jobs for workers and thriving regions.”

Jackson continued: “Workers and students will know what skills will get them good jobs, and can invest in education with confidence. Employers can invest in growing their business, knowing skilled workers will be available.”

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the Regional Skills Leadership Groups also link with the recently-announced reform of temporary work visas.

“Our immigration reforms will help regions get the workers they need, while also ensuring that New Zealanders are first in line for jobs. With proper planning at a regional level, immigration can help address skills shortages in the short term, while training more New Zealanders with the skills our workforces need.”

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is seeking feedback on the design of the Regional Skills Leadership Groups, to make sure they work for each region, and link to and coordinate with the various planning initiatives already in place for some regions.

The Groups are expected to be established by mid-2020 and will deliver their first Regional Workforce Plans by the end of 2020, ahead of vocational education and temporary work visa changes coming fully into effect.

Article published 26th September 2019