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Training in tough times

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It’s certainly tough out there right now.  It’s tough for households and it’s tough for business and all are needing to make hard calls. 

Here at Skills, we are seeing it and feeling it too. We’ve been in in the business of developing skilled and qualified graduates for dozens of industries for over 30 years, through apprenticeship training, and specialist providers like Ignite, ICE, and ETCO.

In many ways that puts us at the very sharp end of these times – we feel deeply our commitment to secure the future of the industries we serve and communities where we operate, like at our Ignite campus in Wiri.  We stand or fall along with our industries, and we are part of our industries.  Just for one example, ETCO, the Electrical Training Group, is part of Skills group. They not only train 60 percent of all the sparkies in New Zealand, but through their Group Employment scheme are also New Zealand’s largest employer of apprentices. 

A bit like a long-serving politician, this is not our first rodeo either.  We know all about boom and bust, we have seen it before several times.  Here is what we know, and what a lot of employers we work with also know: things turn around.  And when they do, you need to be ready.   We certainly can’t afford to stop investing in our people and our capability.  The simple truth is we must keep training. If we don’t continue supply the skilled and workers that businesses rely on, then what happens when the ship turns around? 

And there is no shortage of work – quite the opposite.  As I write this a group of Construction Industry Associations have written to the government seeking urgent action to speed up the consents and approvals to unlock a scarily large set of infrastructure deficits.  Unlocking that kind of economic activity will not just benefit those industries, but have spillover effects into other industries and build the vibrant communities we all want to see.

In the end, the way to turn the corner will be to get that economic activity going.  But it’s no good having ‘shovel ready’ projects if there are no skilled workers there to wield the shovels.  So we must keep training.

When inflation is biting, it can certainly be tempting to reduce the training budget as a “nice to have”, but it would be short-sighted: research here and around the world finds over and over that second only to pay-packet, the way to retain employees is to invest in their skills.  If you have good people, and you don’t want to lose them, invest in their skills.

New Zealand is also a place with lots and lots of SMEs.  We think that makes us unique, but we really aren’t. I’ve recently been lucky enough to look at the training systems in Germany and the UK.  Sure, we paint our houses a few different colours, and they have a few more huge corporates and manufacturers, but they too have thousands of small and family businesses just like ours, living through volatility, inflation and economic headwinds.   They are worried about next week and next month. And that means they lack the time and infrastructure to develop and offer high quality training and upskilling for their people – and that’s where we come in.

One interesting difference from Germany though – you aren’t allowed to own a company – any company – unless you have a Level 5 (Meister) qualification. And a core pillar of every Meister qualification? How to train.  The ability to effectively impart skills and knowledge to the next generation is a fundamental requirement of owning a German business.

So back to us at Skills – if you are unsure what to train, or how to train, but want to invest in your people to secure the future, we would love to hear from you.  We offer programmes the way our customers want them, not the way we insist on delivering them. We support on-job and online and work-based models from foundation skills, literacy and numeracy, through to C-Suite and leadership consulting.  Specialist trades, hospitality, healthcare, hairdressers, security guards and lots in between.  A big thing for us is benchmarking and diagnostics.  Do you know what your skills needs really are on the ‘shop floor’, and a plan to address those gaps.  Even more important, after you’ve worked with us how can you see a measurable difference, measured by you, addressing a real business need.

Anyway, whether you end up working with us or not – a genuine shout out to fellow business people and employers in South Auckland – we are one of you and we are here to help.

 

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Written by Josh Williams, Head of Consulting at Skills Group.  Josh has worked in vocational education for over 20 years and was formerly the Chief Executive of the Industry Training Federation of New Zealand.

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