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Key to recovery

Workforce plan calls for support from range of sectors.

The smallest project in the Tairawhiti Economic Support Package Redeployment Programme could potentially have one of the biggest region-wide impacts.

Trust Tairawhiti is working on the Workforce Development Plan which will play a large part in the recovery of Tairawhiti post-Covid-19.

Headed by project manager Richard Searle, the plan looks to increase the region's workforce capabilities and capacities by delving into four key sectors — forestry, horticulture, civil construction and tourism, which includes hospitality and accommodation.

Backing up those figures will be input from supporting sectors, including transport and logistics, engineering and construction.

A governance group comprising chairs from Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou, Rongowhakaata and Te Runanga o Turanganui a Kiwa, along with representatives from Gisborne District Council, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Ministry of Social Development, Trust Tairawhiti and the four industry sectors will oversee the project.

“The key goal is to better understand the regional employment opportunities in key sectors and to identify the opportunities for local talent to be shaped to have the skills to gain employment,” Mr Searle said.

Matching workers to jobs

Latest data from the Ministry of Social Development shows 9.5 percent of Gisborne's population is claiming the Jobseeker Support — the second highest rate in New Zealand, just behind Northland.

“Here in Tairawhiti we have one of the highest unemployment rates in New Zealand, with a number of vacancies holding back opportunities for local businesses,” Mr Searle said.

Prior to the Covid-19 lockdown there were an estimated 400 to 600 jobs available across the four sectors, with projections a further 1200 jobs would be created in the coming two years. That would come through the development of higher-value horticulture production, the increase in forestry harvests and the extended programme of civil roading and engineering construction under way, he said.

The tourism sector had earlier been showing faster growth than others but was expected to be adversely affected by Covid-19 for sometime.

Mr Searle will be working with sector employers and agencies, those in the education training sector, as well as other supporting agencies who can offer wrap-around support, to ensure that any challenges can be overcome.

He is confident the programme will help identify how the region can support training and development of those not in employment or education, with a view to placing them with good employers.

“In turn, this will contribute to improved wellbeing outcomes and intervene in a cycle that is currently broken,” he said.

“The intention is to nurture the talent we have towards new employment outcomes, which we understand to be a key component of personal and community wellbeing.”

He is also hopeful the plan will drive a change in thinking from employees, employers and the wider community, with the lift in skills and capabilities leading to the living wage as a minimum.

The project is one of five under the district council's $23.755m government package, and part of a wider $100m national redeployment push.

While the plan focused on just four sectors initially, the success could be replicated for other sector/employer opportunities, he said.

“The learnings from this and subsequent execution are expected to be a blueprint for future expansion.

“We want the best possible outcome for our community as it looks to rebuild post-Covid-19.”

The project is being delivered on behalf of the CARE forum (Commitment, Action and Reciprocity that results in sustainable Employment), which is the regional workforce development agency and was set up to oversee the development of workforce capacity and capability.

Collaborative effort: Playing their part in the region's economic recovery from Covid-19 through the Workforce Development Plan are (from left) Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust general manager and Rau Tipu Rau Ora executive management team member Amohaere Houkamau, horticulture industry representative Natalya Egan, Trust Tairawhiti project manager Richard Searle, Mayor Rehette Stoltz and Eastland Wood Council chief executive Kim Holland. Picture by The Black Balloon