Thursday I attended a briefing by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment on Hawke’s Bay’s job prospects in coming years.

There was no new news (full report here). What the briefers had to say repeated what by now should be commonly known in the Bay:

  • Demographic trends are quite challenging — little or no population growth overall, with the under-15 years of age and over-65s being the two growing segments. [In fact, the most thorough research on NZ’s population future predicts that population in the country’s rural provinces has stopped growing … possibly forever.]
  • The biggest economic sectors in HB — agriculture and food processing — also being the slowest growing (and to a large extent, paying the lowest wages).
  • A persistent inability to prepare or match youth graduating from school (or simply leaving) with existent jobs in the region.

The audience proffered a range of solutions, all sounding individually intelligent, but none capable alone and in isolation of ensuring attractive jobs for our youth or a vibrant regional economy going forward.

If there were ever a challenge that demands a regional strategy, with all players harnessed to and invested in it, employment growth is it.

The small-minded, like new political blood-brothers Bill Dalton and Stuart Nash, insist that this is not a problem local government can do anything about.

But their view is myopic nonsense.

What is required in Hawke’s Bay is mobilising the efforts of all the significant players and sectors who must cooperate for a better and sustainable economic future …

  • The education community (high schools and EIT) — those who must educate and train our youth and help expose them to the full range of employment/career possibilities on offer in the region.
  • The business community — those who must identify current and future employment needs and make those needs understood and exciting to the region’s youth and to key enablers in the community (and of course ultimately specialty train and hire).
  • Parents — who must choose to provide nurture learning environments, help raise aspirations, provide role models (or not).
  • Other role models — who can personify rewarding job paths and careers centered right here in Hawke’s Bay.
  • Young people — who must voice their needs and exploit the learning and communications tools and technologies that exist at their fingertips.
  • Maori leaders and whanau — whose role is critical given the demographic surge ahead in our young Maori population.
  • Communicators — those in the Bay who know how to use today’s online and mobile technologies to connect sectors, to social market, and to facilitate communication, exploration and learning within the youth community itself.
  • Central government — a provider of data, working models and (at least) seed funding.
  • Local government — which can convene, provide logistical and research support (and seed funding), knock heads together, and negotiate with central government.

All these players must march together to the same drum.

And no institution can make that collaboration happen for Hawke’s Bay better than our own local governments(s).

Of course, so long as we have five local governments, we can count on it taking at least three months to agree on the date for the first planning meeting, another three months for the meeting to occur, and then at least another year to negotiate the terms of of reference for the working party.

Hey, but what’s another year or two of falling all over each other, protecting patches, and bemoaning our fate? The kids can wait. They have nothing else to do. They’ll still be there when we adults are ready.

Tom Belford

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  1. Yes, good article Tom, but you missed the elephant in the room! Cost. Everyone has an opinion about what is needed, but no-one is prepared to pay for it. It is always someone else’s responsibility to put up the cash and do the hard work. Until the “players” in business and agriculture put their hands up nothing will change.

    I have personal experience in this field as an exteacher at Napier Boys’ High School. When I started in teaching, that school had 6 workshops plus the ‘farm workshop’, a school farmlet, Agriculture and Horticulture courses. There were shearing courses, farm bike, tractor and chainsaw operating courses organised for the students as well as vacation farm jobs (unpaid, naturally!).

    The income from the farmlet met the costs of the Ag/Hort unit with a small amount available for other school use. The Ag/Hort teachers received no extra pay for the additional hours they put in and working over the school holidays. That is still the situation today in all schools running such units.

    The Ministry of Education does not want to know about such activities because they cost too much to run. When was the last such course paid for by Federated Farmers? Workshops are also too expensive, which is why every student is encouraged to stay on until Year 13 and go on to University. It is a cheaper style of secondary education!

    Look at what happened to apprenticeships over the last two decades. Employers were only too happy to shed the training responsibility and associated costs to the Tertiary institutions.

    Stop blaming the Schools and local government for our present situation, take a good, hard look at the business people who are doing all the moaning. All they are still doing is looking to shift their costs onto someone else. How many orchardists now provide accommodation and transport for their workers on the minimum possible wage?

    Amalgamation is not the cure, personal responsibility is!

  2. Thanks Ian McIntosh for a well thought out comment, couldn’t agree more personal responsibilty is what is required.
    Understandably our young adults will travel the world seeking better careers and great adventures it is our responsibilty to create an environment here in the Hawke’s bay that is world class and vibrant enough to lure them back when they are ready to settle down. and hopefully they bring back their partners and collegues to experience the fantastic lifestyle we have.
    Amalgamation is not the cure, selfless cooperation is far more important.

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