Skills Shift – Research and Pilot Programme

-Dieter Adam, Chief Executive, The Manufacturers Network

Skill shortages continue to be one of the top problems facing manufacturing businesses, holding them back from growing and reaching their potential.

Not only this, but with changing and increasingly accessible digital technologies such as automation, AI and networked manufacturing, the skills required in manufacturing are likely to change into the future – this is the Skills Shift.

While the topic of changing skills needs has been widely discussed, we do not yet have any concrete answers as to what it may mean for our sector and how we can best make sure training institutions can effectively respond and we make the necessary changes to our own practices.

The Skills Shift represents a challenge for all sectors of New Zealand and all parts of our economy and society – how can people obtain the skills they need to succeed and get or keep well-paying, productive jobs?

How can people gain both the soft and specialist technical skills that set them up to adapt to any change?

How can companies, education providers and Government work together create a system where these skills challenges are address?

And, in particular, how can employers and employees work together to train and up-skill while remaining employed, and with minimal impact on productive time?

To answer these questions, The Manufacturers’ Network has put together a pilot programme and associated research projects focused on the Skills Shift in manufacturing. This programme has been endorsed by the Future of Work Tripartite Forum, and we will seek funding support to undertake the work.

What we want to do is provide quality research into the Skills Shift in New Zealand so that manufacturers and tertiary and training providers understand what the Skills Shifts will look like and mean for them, and what measures will need to be taken to prevent the aggravation of what is already a serious skills shortage in manufacturing, and across a number of other industries.

This programme can also provide some wider insights beyond just manufacturing. Using manufacturing as an example, the project will provide information for government on changes in (tertiary) education and training required to grow output and productivity in our economy and avoid skill shortages, with a concurrent rise in unemployment affecting people whose skill sets no longer meet market demand.

This programme will have four core components:
Research study based on surveys of manufacturing companies: this will look at the change in demand for skills in manufacturing business across a number of sub-sectors, through in-depth surveys on current skill needs versus their expectation of skill requirements in, say, 2024.

It will be complemented by a survey of current employees and learners, both in apprenticeships and manufacturing-related tertiary education, as well as a review of the current literature in this area.

Research study of tertiary and other training providers: this will involve research into the relevant current offerings of tertiary institutions and look into how tertiary education providers view the Skills Shift in manufacturing, and how they currently plan to adapt their services.

Gap analysis and recommendations: based on the above: this will identify the gap – if any – between what manufacturers and their employees expect future skills profiles to look like, and what tertiary education organisations think they have to do to meet future market demand. It will develop recommendations for how those gaps can be closed.

Rapid implementation Pilot: this will be a practical pilot involving a single manufacturing business and associated education and training providers.
Building on best-practice examples from overseas, this will look at the implementation of Industry 4.0 manufacturing technologies and the associated training and up-skilling required for staff members.

The programme is set to start with the research into manufacturers’ demand for skills later in 2018. We will provide more information as this programme moves ahead and a number of our members will be involved and have opportunities to share their views on the changing skill needs in their businesses into the future.
\We couldn’t be more excited to get start on this work – we think this has real potential to help our sector better prepare for the future and help align and improve understanding of our sector with education providers and Government to tackle future skills shortages.

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