Twelve months of steady evolution

-Leeann Watson, Chief Executive Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce

The last year has been– not quite the transformational 2019 that many expected – but as we head into 2020 and the general election, I think that will likely change.

There was the release of a Government Budget focused on wellbeing, as well as the announcement of a $7.5 billion surplus, which may well be called upon – at least in part – as the political parties start to ramp up activity before the voting booths open.

There was also the reversal on the tabling of a capital gains tax.

There were various changes to employment legislation, with Fair Pay Agreements one of the more highly publicised issues through the year. Immigration too was in the spotlight with changes to employer-assisted temporary work visa settings to help address skills shortages, which are particularly prevalent in the regions.

There were also the local body elections in October, with some level of movement across most electorates. Hopefully this will result in a fresh burst of energy for Councillors to really gain traction on key local issues to help enable our business communities.

In the vocational education sector, the big news was the launch of the Reform of Vocational Education (RoVE) – one of the most significant changes in education for some time, which will redefine roles for industry bodies and education providers and establish a unified vocational education funding system.

It was also good to see the Government’s support of literacy and numeracy training in the workplace through a new funding commitment of $14.5 million over four years – meaning the Government will contribute nearly $45 million to the employer-led workplace literacy and numeracy fund between 2019 and 2022.

I am optimistic that this sector shake-up will encourage collaboration between the business community and education providers to help ensure we have a fit-for-purpose future workforce.

As we head into 2020, I think we will see more of these ‘big picture’ issues being addressed. Given that the unemployment rate is still pretty low, as are interest rates, and the housing market may be starting to turn, it might mean that the economy may not be such a focus and other key drivers, such as our infrastructure and climate change will really come to the fore.

There also other issues, updates and developments in the pipeline that will shape our operating environment, including export and trade and the volatile international markets; resource and infrastructure; immigration; education, skills and training; employment relations, workplace wellbeing; and energy.

We know that manufacturing is a critical part of the New Zealand economy. The sector is challenged by low productivity, with skill shortages a real challenge and automation will cause significant disruption.  So, what does this all mean for the sector?

We encourage you to embrace change and new technologies, and lead by example. Find a group of influencers to help you drive change and then communicate 10 times over. Upskill and bring your people with you.

Collaborate with others in your industry and learn from their journey – for the manufacturing sector, one of the key channels to do this is through The Manufacturers’ Network, which recently merged with the Employers and Manufacturers Association and The Chamber to further enhance our respective services to the sector.

But most of all, we encourage you to seek external support. We appreciate that in addition to the above changes, businesses are also facing other challenges in their daily operations.

You can’t be an expert in all areas and be across every new trend, policy and legislation change. Together with our national and global network of Chambers and EMAs, our role at The Chamber is to empower businesses, to ensure they have the information, skills and capability to mitigate and manage these and other changes and make the most of opportunities on the horizon.

I look forward to a transformational year ahead.



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