Cultural diversity offers ‘significant unrealised potential’

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The search is on for Auckland employers keen to upskill their Pacific employees, via fully funded workplace-based training.

Auckland Unlimited, the region’s economic and cultural agency, is connecting eligible employers and education providers to help upskill Auckland’s Pacific people working in jobs that are less skilled and more likely to be affected by automation and other technological change.

The training ­— externally accredited short courses — is designed to give people the skills and knowledge to adapt to the future of work and the economic impacts of Covid-19, boosting work and life skills, confidence and resilience.

The programme is part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE’s) Auckland Pacific Skills Shift Initiative, a four-year initiative that invests in innovative approaches to support Pacific peoples’ labour market progression by focusing on workplace and skills, working with employers, communities and families.

The overall initiative is being delivered by three partners — Auckland Unlimited, Auckland Council’s The Southern Initiative, and The Cause Collective.

Unrealised potential

Auckland Unlimited economic development general manager Pam Ford says Auckland’s cultural diversity offers significant unrealised potential for the region’s businesses, economy and communities — if its people have equitable access to opportunity.

“The impacts of the global pandemic and economic downturn have aggravated Auckland’s entrenched social and economic inequities,” Ford says.

“Young Pacific workers are over-represented in retail, hospitality and tourism sectors — the hardest hit by Covid-19.

“Pacific Aucklanders generally are over-represented in less-skilled, lower-paid roles in critical industries, including industries on the frontline of managing the impacts of Covid-19, such as warehousing and logistics, healthcare and manufacturing.

“Pacific people will make up a third of the region’s working age population by 2050, and we want to work with Auckland businesses to boost their employees’ resilience, capability, confidence and well-being, so our companies, communities and region has a more skilled and future-ready workforce.”

Auckland Unlimited was allocated $8 million from MBIE over four years in Budget 2020 to enable 3500 places on workplace-based training courses for Pacific Aucklanders.

This followed successful pilots in partnership with the Sustainable Business Council, Sanford, Van Den Brink Poultry and The Comfort Group.

“We want to partner with Auckland employers in the construction and infrastructure, manufacturing, healthcare, transport and logistics sectors, industries that tend to employ a high proportion of Pacific workers and that are important drivers of Auckland’s economic recovery,” Ford says.

Courses in financial literacy and digital skills are underway, with more courses in development and the ability to tailor courses to specific industry and business needs.

Depending on business and employee needs, Auckland Unlimited can facilitate a single course for a workplace or a group of courses.

“All the courses incorporate problem-solving, teamwork and communications skills, and learning to learn.

“They are designed to support people to move into higher level jobs with existing employers, or be better placed to pursue further training or other employment if their jobs are affected by the changing nature of work or the impacts of Covid-19.

“If you can identify a group of Pacific workers who would benefit from this, and clear them for two hours a week over eight weeks during work time, we can take care of the funding, link you with an experienced education provider, and find the right course or courses for your firm and your people.”

Outcomes from the pilot programmes include people setting and reaching goals, ranging from stepping into new positions of responsibility with their employers and saving the money for a significant family celebration to using a computer, mouse and internet, and enjoying learning for the first time.

The Comfort Group people and culture manager Rebecca Phillips says this training gives long-serving staff a chance to learn the core skills that make them future-ready, and confident to embrace technology improvements the company may implement in the future.

“This not only improves the skill set of our workforce but creates positive change in their personal lives too,” Phillips says.

“We are implementing a new time and attendance system this year which will enable electronic submission and processing of leave requests, so it is important our staff have the skills and capability to interact with this new technology.

“An engaged, capable and committed worker is worth their weight in gold, and partnering with Auckland Unlimited to provide this training for our workers has been positive for everyone involved.”

Companies interested in getting involved can find out more, register their interest and see case studies at www.aucklandnz.com/upskill-your-pacific-workforce.

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