Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 2007: Working Better
GOAL 3: OUR WORKFORCE: THE SKILLS OF OUR WORKERS WILL ENSURE NEW ZEALAND ENTERPRISES ARE LEADERS INTERNATIONALLY
Under this goal, our medium-term priorities were influencing the supply of skilled labour by:
- better targeting the immigration programme
- working with industry and education sectors to match educational services to the needs of our workers, employers and the economy.
Achievements during 2006/07 that contributed to this goal and associated medium-term priorities include the following:
Better targeting the Immigration Programme
In the current environment of high labour demand and a growing trend of workers moving around the world, the Department decided a record number of 166,340 work application decisions for 2006/07, up 19 per cent from 2005/06.
The Department made changes for temporary workers, such as the RSE scheme, and implemented changes for skilled migrants wishing to apply for residency. In 2006/07, there were 47,000-52,000 places available under the New Zealand Residence Programme:
- 28,140 (60 per cent) people were approved under the Business/Skilled stream.
- 14,705 (31 per cent) people were approved under the Family Sponsored stream.
- 4,119 (9 per cent) people were approved under the International/Humanitarian stream.
The SMC is New Zealand's premier immigration product, providing residence opportunities for skilled people. This policy was reviewed in 2006/07 to ensure it is well positioned to attract quality skilled migrants in an increasingly competitive environment.
Changes were also made to the Work-to-Residence component of the SMC as a result of this review. People granted Work-to-Residence permits under the SMC now have nine months instead of six to find a job. Overseas applicants are also given an additional three months to get to New Zealand before the nine-month period begins. Another change means that skilled migrants who find a job will no longer need to work for three months prior to being approved residence. These changes provide a better balance between giving migrants a decent chance to prove themselves, while also ensuring they have what is needed by New Zealand employers.
International students are a significant immigration group, creating important economic benefit to New Zealand. During 2006/07 research was undertaken on international students in New Zealand by the Department of Labour and Education New Zealand. The research examined students' study pathways through the education system and the characteristics of those who transition to work or residence in New Zealand.
Working with industry and education sectors to match educational services to the needs of our workers, employers and the economy
Key achievements in upskilling the existing workforce over the last year have been made in two areas: strategic policy; and the implementation of the Upskilling Partnership Programme.
Strategic policy work has focused on the development of a medium to long-term strategy to improve the foundation skills (literacy, numeracy and language) of workers, unemployed people and groups close to the labour market.
Funding for the Upskilling Partnership Programme was granted in Budget 2006, and the programme had its launch in early 2007. The programme is designed to improve the evidence base on what works to engage New Zealand employers and employees in foundation skills training, which forms of training provision work best in New Zealand workplaces, and what the business benefits are from investing in foundation skills. Up to 15 partnerships are being established over three years, involving a mix of employers, unions, training providers and other parties. Afteran initial period ofengagement with employers, two partnerships are now up and running (with Works Infrastructure and Fletcher Construction Company, Engineering Division), and early-stage evaluations are underway.
Horticulture and viticulture engagement
The horticulture and viticulture industries account for approximately $2.4 billion dollars in exports, but have been facing severe labour and skill shortages that have put these export-focused industries at risk. During the 2006/07 year, significant work was undertaken in implementing the seasonal labour strategy and in linking industry with immigration policy changes. Two key achievements are Picknz and the RSE scheme.
Picknz is the brand adopted by the horticulture industry as a recruitment tool to enable people to find seasonal work throughout New Zealand. It follows the harvest trail for picking fruit, thinning, grape pruning, packhouse positions, kiwifruit and vegetable produce handling and many more jobs. Refer to www.picknz.co.nz
The RSE scheme, which also better targets New Zealand's immigration programme and provides support for Pacific nations, is described further in the case study below.
Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme
The short-term nature of work in some seasonal industries, such as horticulture and viticulture, means they have traditionally struggled to find workers from within New Zealand.
In October 2006 the Government announced a new seasonal work programme - the RSE scheme - to assist employers in particular industries to attract seasonal workers. Where there are no New Zealand workers available, the scheme allows for priority to be given to workers from the Pacific for seasonal work opportunities in the horticulture and viticulture industries in planting, maintaining, harvesting and packing crops. A framework has been developed to assist those industries to recruit workers from the Pacific for short periods when they are unable to recruit locally.
The initiative addresses both the seasonal labour shortages experienced by the horticulture and viticulture sectors and responds to the Pacific's requests for improved access to the New Zealand labour market, boosting the skills and economies of Pacific nations while assisting New Zealand's economic transformation.
The RSE scheme was officially launched on 30 April 2007, with the first employer achieving RSE status at the same time. By the end of June 2007, seven employers had been granted RSE status with, 10 more RSE applications pending a decision.
Food and beverage
The Department has continued to build effective working relationships with the industry and other government agencies in implementing the Skills Action Plan. During 2006/07, the Skills and Training Action Group initiated an industry training organisation strategic planning process for the food and beverage sector. This aims to greatly improve the quality of industry training organisation planning, through strategic support and access to labour market information, including forecasting information.
In-depth regional labour market reports and website
The Department has improved its labour market reporting to produce a greater variety of reports focusing on labour market statistics and trends in New Zealand. Reports in relation to this goal have included in-depth quarterly labour market reports - Skills in the Labour Market, Labour Market Outlook and Quarterly Migration Update.
The Department produced 12 annual in-depth regional labour market reports, which bring together significant amounts of quantitative and qualitative information that provide detailed pictures of local labour markets. The reports are the first major publications to use 2006 Census data at a sub-regional level, which means people with an interest in labour markets have access to information that is both timely and relevant.
As a result of further exploring how to refine the Department's information services, a website refresh was undertaken. It is now more user-friendly, with reports on screen being simpler and clearer, and with more logical navigation tools.
Regional labour market development
The Department has contributed to positive progress towards labour market development in all New Zealand regions during 2006/07. Some examples include the following:
- The Wellington region produced New Zealand's first comprehensive labour market strategy, which was integrated with the wider regional development strategy. This is now in implementation mode.
- Several regions have taken their first steps in developing a regional labour market strategy, such as Canterbury, Southland, Otago, Manawatu and Waikato.
- The Auckland region has instituted a skills work-stream as part of their Metro project on regional development.
- There has been a concentrated effort on supporting implementation of the horticulture and viticulture strategy and the RSE scheme, focused on the regions where horticulture and viticulture is concentrated (most notably Bay of Plenty, Hawkes Bay and Marlborough).
Tertiary Education Commission and the prototype interactive tool
Development and dissemination of an interactive data tool enabled tertiary providers to access relevant labour market information, such as industry growth and qualification development data, from the 2006 Census to inform their regional investment plans. There has been positive feedback from the Tertiary Education Commission.
Ngāti Awa information tools launch
Ngāti Awa identified a need for labour market information on their workforce to enable them to take a more strategic and planned approach to their workforce and broaden their economic development. The Department developed a new tool to gather and display the information. Ngāti Awa found the tool useful and combined with positive feedback from government agencies and the Industry Training Federation, the department further developed the tool. It is now available through the Department's website.
Survey of Employers who have Recently Advertised - SERA
To increase its value, the scope of the 2006 SERA was extended to include not only semi-skilled/elementary occupations but also highly-skilled and skilled occupations. By broadening the sample base, the Department has enabled the calculation of skill shortage indicators for most occupational groups. 3,534 interviews with employers or recruitment agencies were conducted. The resulting report - Occupations in Shortage in New Zealand: 2006 - was published in March 2007.
The survey found that shortages existed for all major occupational groups in 2006. Less than half (48 per cent) of all trades worker vacancies were filled with a suitable candidate, as were only just over half the plant and machine operator and assembler vacancies. By contrast, clerical occupations (75 per cent) were only just under the shortage threshold.