Analysis: Canterbury Manufacturing Pathways

The aim is that this first-hand experience will encourage students to seek employment or further training to move into a career in manufacturing.

Canterbury PIC* By Tom Thomson, President of the New Zealand Manufacturers and Exporters Association (NZMEA).

How can we inspire the next generation to seek work and education in the manufacturing industry, and show them the great opportunities it can offer?

With the average age of employees in the industry now approaching 50 years, this is a question that the Canterbury Development Corporation (CDC), NZMEA, Competenz, the Ministry of Education, CPIT, schools and manufacturers have been considering, as part of a wider effort to improve conditions for manufacturers in the region.

This process has resulted in the Canterbury Manufacturing Pathways (CMP) project, a tripartite collaboration between employers, schools and training providers, which is focusing on a range of initiatives to improve the supply skills and talent of secondary school students into training and jobs needed in the manufacturing sector.
Some of these initiatives include manufacturing site visits, giving students and teachers a direct and intriguing view of operations, as well as speaker visits to schools to inspire and break misconceptions. Also under discussion are scholarships and paid internships to attract talented students who might not otherwise have considered a career in manufacturing.

A key part of this project is the Manufacturing Gateway Programme, which gives students an opportunity to gain basic trade skills, confidence and experience in what it is actually like to work in a manufacturing business.

The Gateway Programme targets 16 – 19 year old students with an aptitude in engineering. The programme is based on the Level 2 requirements for the National Certificate in Mechanical Engineering, and begins with a five-week pre-trades block course at CPIT, giving them basic training in workplace safety, workplace practices as well as instruction on machinery use in various manufacturing environments.

The second stage involves the students gaining first hand experience within a manufacturing firm, with structured workplace training one day a week at a business for 10 weeks with CPIT tutors providing workplace training assessments.

The aim is that this first-hand experience will encourage students to seek employment or further training to move into a career in manufacturing, increasing the supply of new workers and skills, which can be further honed through apprenticeships, training and education.

This is particularly important in Canterbury, as the rebuild has been taking the lion’s share of new workers and school leavers with an aptitude in engineering who otherwise have entered manufacturing. High levels of construction are only transitory, and once that has slowed the manufacturing sector will become ever more important to provide sustainable skilled jobs in the region.

For younger generations coming through school, a career in manufacturing is not always considered or seen as an obvious choice, and misconceptions remain about what manufacturing jobs are like. Projects like the Canterbury Manufacturing Pathways Project are invaluable for raising awareness, and showing students and teachers alike that great opportunities lie within the sector.

Critically, it can also open parents’ eyes, which are a driving influence on their kids, to the potential of education and a career in manufacturing for their future.

Co-operation between industry, schools, training organisations, local government agencies and Central Government like this is vital for understanding industry needs and communicating job opportunities – getting schools and teachers on board can make a huge difference.

There are many reasons why promoting jobs and growth in manufacturing is good for everyone. Manufacturing accounts for 12% of all jobs in Canterbury and is the largest employment sector in Canterbury with more than 34,000 employees generating more than $3.1 billion p.a. to the Canterbury economy.

Jobs in manufacturing tend to be well paid, and have higher average weekly wages than that of all industries (average across all sectors). The same is true for median weekly wages.

As well as being paid higher than the average of all sectors, in both average and median terms, manufacturing can also provide vast opportunities for its workers – it can lead to further training and up skilling opportunities, and provide a well paid and satisfying career.

A focus on employment and growth in the manufacturing sector also has strong flow on effects to the rest of the economy, through employment, spending in the local economy, supporting supply chain businesses, and bringing much needed export income to New Zealand.

A job in manufacturing creates between 2 and 5 jobs in the wider economy, and for every dollar of turnover in manufacturing generates $1.74 of turnover in the rest of the economy – clearly investment in the sector pays off.

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