Strategic engagement

Strategic engagement

The Competenz strategic engagement team works with key influencers from across all our industries, gaining industry insights and understanding of what our sectors need to enable training solutions and workforce development.

Key areas of focus for the team in 2018 were understanding our stakeholders’ perceptions of vocational education, developing our knowledge of the future of work, investment in the forestry industry and women in trades.


What is vocational education?

In August, the Competenz board and senior leadership team commenced research to understand stakeholders’ perceptions of New Zealand’s vocational education system and how it could be improved. We facilitated a workshop with 21 influential stakeholders from across our 36 sectors, and undertook a comprehensive survey with more than 600 respondents.

Overall our stakeholders see great value in New Zealand having a strategically focussed, collaborative vocational education system that is well funded to support learner, employer and broader industry and economic needs.

They also identified that:

  • The current system is complex and not well understood by those outside of the system
  • Workforce development, learners, industry and economic needs must be central to a successful system, especially to navigate the future of work
  • There needs to be stronger links to secondary school and the value of trades-based vocations need parity with academic and ‘professional’ careers
  • A successful VET system is considered one centred on collaboration, rather than competition. A system that is equitably funded, with shared outcomes for all stakeholders involved and aligned to a diverse range of learning, educational and industrial needs
  • Outcomes of vocational education should be sustainable employment, low unemployment, and strong labour-market and/or educational participation, connecting communities, regions, broader society and the economy.


Automation is not a jobs’ killer

A key focus, for both the strategic engagement team and Competenz CEO Fiona Kingsford, was really understanding the implications of automation of our sectors, especially ‘myth-busting’ the misconception of automation being a jobs’ killer.

Lifelong learning is mission critical to the future success of our school leavers. Now, more than ever before, it’s vital students choose a pathway that equips them to be agile and learn new skills for jobs that don’t yet exist.

The World Economic Forum predicts 75 million jobs will be lost in the next four years as companies automate, but at the same time, 133 million jobs will be created. Human jobs won’t disappear, they will change.

According to Manpower Group1, the most in-demand skills are the trades, sales representatives, engineers and drivers.

Some of the mechanical engineering apprentices we work with are using artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics to facilitate the automation of a growing number of ‘doing’ tasks. Today’s AI-enabled, information-rich tools are increasingly able to handle jobs that, in the past, have been exclusively done by people. These shifts will produce massive disruptions to employment and, if we are going to meet this disruption and prosper from it, we need to address it now by helping our children choose the right learning pathway.

The people needed for these 133 million new jobs will be responsible for gleaning insight and intelligence from the machines, fixing and maintaining them as well as quality assurance, among other things.

As an industry training organisation, the businesses we work with employ more than 20,000 people completing apprenticeships or on-the-job training. They are committing to the future by growing their workforce’s competencies or work-related skills for a world of lifelong learning, rather than the “three or four years and you’re done” university system. These businesses are future-proofing their people, right now.

We have to collaborate and help our children develop the range of skills they will need to succeed in this brave new world of work. Although disruptive, these shifts are exciting and are opening new pathways for our young people. We think their life-long learning begins now, on-the-job, for the best head start for their careers.

Investment in the forestry sector

The Competenz strategic engagement team continued to worked closely with the forestry sector – including our industry partners the Forest Industry Contractors Association (FICA), the Forest Owners Association (FOA), and the Forestry Industry Safety Council (FISC) – and government officials from the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC), the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI), and Te Uru Rākau (Forestry New Zealand).

Fiona Kingsford was appointed a member of the Forestry Ministerial Advisory Group – an independent advisory group on a range of forestry topics, including the Government’s One Billion Trees programme.

Our focus aligned with the programme goals, specifically with workforce capability, and broader sector workforce development needs. We attended workshops with MPI and industry stakeholders, and provided proposals to the Minister of Forestry to help the Government achieve its objectives for the sector.

Our proposals outlined the need for the Government to further invest in workforce, specifically industry training, to ensure access to high quality, sustainable and relevant training.

The funding we requested included:

  1. Developing a workforce-capability strategy to achieve the objectives of the One Billion Trees programme and forestry sector by 2028
  2. Getting people into sustainable careers and ongoing learning. This includes supporting those engaged in pre-employment programmes
  3. Funding the implementation of a planting micro-credential training programme
  4. Funding Competenz to ensure forestry training is sustainable
  5. Pilot of training interventions to increase learner success.


Recommendations 1 and 3 began in 2018, led by MPI and Competenz respectively. The remaining recommendations are under consideration in 2019.


Industry training pays off

The Women in Trades research programme received our continued support with our ITO partners, ITPs, and other agencies. The research is a multi-year project to understand what necessitates success for women in trades, the demographic, socio-economic and educational characteristics of women in trades, and employer perceptions. Due for completion in 2019, it is co-funded by Ako Aotearoa.

Part of the research examines earning potential and longevity within a particular industry, after formal industry training. Researchers found that by age 32, Competenz graduates were likely to earn an average of $75,000 per year compared to $66,000 for university graduates. In addition, 40% of Competenz graduates were still likely to be employed in the sector they trained in eight years’ later.