ADVOCATE COLUMN 4th WEEK JUNE 2018
Northland, according to any number of recent surveys and reports is performing better economically than it has in a long time. This is great news particularly when you consider where we have been in the past and how the current information shows that our employment figures are improving and the number of young people not in education, employment or training is lower than Auckland. As it has always been, much of this improved performance is due growth in the primary and tourism sectors.
While this balance may change over time, and hopefully the tech sector will grow particularly with access to UFB and the Hawaiki Cable, at present we are reliant on the traditional industries to sustain our growth and to provide a platform off which we can add value to what we do. Which brings us to one of the biggest dangers facing any sustainable long-term growth in the region and that is access to a capable work force.
If we take hospitality sector as an example, I am regularly hearing cases of businesses struggling to find staff, stay open and in some case being unable to open new businesses due to lack of suitable workers. I know some will say “well they just need to pay more” and perhaps in some cases they do. But I know of one business in particular where I know this is not the case, where workers have access to world class training, where the positions are treated as a vocation with opportunities to travel and broaden the workers experience and the work is not seasonal. Yet still they struggle to find enough workers who are work ready and capable of being trained.
Without these hospitality businesses a large part of our visitor industry offer – after the visitors have experienced our amazing natural environment – is missing. The problem has been made worse by recent government immigration policies but if this is the reality of the environment that businesses are going to have to operate then work needs to be done to ensure that the demand from business is met.
We as a business community, supported by central and local government need to ensure that if business growth is not going to be met through increased population but through increased productivity, that businesses and the work force are sufficiently capable to achieve this. Evidence -albeit anecdotal- would suggest this is not the case at present.