News

News

August 25th, 2011

Training critical to meet skills shortages

If New Zealand manufacturing companies think they are going to be able to hire skilled staff to fill their skills gaps without an investment in training over the next two years, they’d better think again. That’s one clear message to come from a survey into companies’ skills needs commissioned by Competenz, the industry training organisation for the engineering and food and beverage manufacturing sectors. From May to mid-June this year, 270 companies were asked about their on-the-job training needs now and in the future, and how they might meet those needs. Competenz will release the results in a paper entitled ‘Do we have the skills?’ which highlights the need for companies to train staff to meet their increasing skills gaps. The research sheds light on whether industry will have enough people with the right education and skills to meet the government’s strategic growth target – trebling the export value of our high-value manufactured goods over the next 15 years. Unless we act now, says Jim MacBride-Stewart, General Manager of Traineeships at Competenz, the answer is no. To illustrate the looming issue, 64% of engineering manufacturers and 53% of food manufacturers believe they’ll need more skilled staff over the next two years. However, the vast majority of engineering manufacturing companies also reported a staff turnover rate of 10% or less, suggesting simply hiring staff with the right level of skills will not be sustainable to meet the skills needs of employers. Worryingly almost half the engineering companies surveyed indicated they would prefer to hire skilled staff to meet their skills needs while only 18% said they’d prefer to train staff. In comparison, 41% of food manufacturers had a preference for hiring skilled staff while a third acknowledged they’d need to train people. “It’s time for businesses to address the skills shortage through a focus on training. Employers must invest now to build capability for the future,” says Mr MacBride-Stewart. The good news is 99% of food and beverage manufacturers and 97% of engineering and metal manufacturers train their staff, and companies in both sectors have a significant history of investing in on-the-job training. Companies in the food manufacturing sector are particularly committed to training as they typically employ large workforces. Furthermore most engineering manufacturing companies and 61% of food manufacturers see the skills of their staff as a cornerstone of their competitive advantage. Across both sectors the majority of companies agreed they faced training challenges, including downtime for supervisors and learners, finding good trainers, engaging learners, language barriers, and numeracy and literacy issues. “Despite these challenges companies must be prepared to train their staff as a long term solution to NZ Inc’s skills needs – hiring skilled workers here or from overseas is not a sound, long term solution,” says Mr MacBride-Stewart. “Training is vital for the success of individual businesses and for the New Zealand economy. With this sector increasingly lacking in the number and level of skilled workers, it’s only going to become more difficult to fill the needs to manufacturers.” Across the manufacturing sector companies believe they stand to lose customers and experience declining profits if they cannot find the skilled staff they need. The survey results support the assertion that companies should take the lead in hiring staff with the intention to train them, to upskill their existing staff, and promote the wider economic value of skilled workers. For its part, Competenz is dedicated to ensuring high quality trainees are attracted into these industries and trained to a high standard. “Government needs to look at how it invests in apprenticeships and other on-job training - and recognise the contribution companies make to industry training and the value they place on training staff to stay competitive,” says Mr MacBride-Stewart. Companies that want to take the initiative and maximise the benefits of staff training and apprenticeships can contact Competenz today on 0800 526 1800. Copies of Competenz’s paper ‘Do we have the skills?’ with key findings and full results from the survey for each sector are also available on request. Alternatively, click here for a PDF copy of the full report.