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New Zealand's economy continues to grow yet moribund productivity remains a challenge and a group of business, education and technology leaders is looking outside the traditional tertiary framework for solutions.
More than 100 companies signed an open letter stating tertiary qualifications are not required for a range of roles within their workplaces and the focus during recruitment will be on assessing skills, attitudes, motivation, and adaptability of applicants.
New Zealand's economy and labour market have been enjoying strong growth in recent years - buoyed by record migration stoking population growth, record low interest rates, a construction boom, and good terms of trade - but productivity has largely flatlined, with New Zealand's geographic distance restricting access to the global economy and reducing competitive pressures. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, New Zealand's per capita GDP is below the OECD mean and improving productivity growth is a major long-term challenge for improving inclusiveness and living standards.
The open letter forms part of the so-called Strategic Insights Panel (SIP), a group of 30 senior business leaders from New Zealand companies who have set a goal to help double gross domestic product per capita growth from 1.5% to 3% by 2021.
Head of Trade Me Jobs Jeremy Wade said Trade Me wants to make sure all Kiwis are aware of their options. As a result, it has launched a 'no qualifications' search filter on the Trade Me Jobs site to highlight skills-based roles being advertised with no qualification required.
"While tertiary qualifications and study work well, it is certainly not the only avenue to securing a great job as many employers value life experience and passion above all else," said Wade.
Recruiters say that when a role requires specific skills and qualifications it can be easier to initially determine which candidates are qualified, but when clients are more open-minded it does create greater flexibility regarding who can be put forward for a role.
Kirsty Mclaren, joint director and owner of McLaren Associates, told BusinessDesk that many of her clients are already moving this way.
"I can't really recall a role of late that said 'must have' a qualification," she said. Clients will often say a qualification would be preferable "but they are looking more at the notion of a qualification rather than a specific qualification," she said. "I think this is the way of the future."
EdCollective chief executive Luc Shorter said tertiary education remains valuable but cannot be considered the only route to employment.
"Traditional tertiary education will always have a place, but industries and the way people access knowledge has changed and is continuing to change at pace. As such, we need to validate additional pathways for getting people into skilled jobs," Shorter said.
ASB Bank executive general manager business Steve Jurkovich said the lender shares the view there is a growing demand for contemporary skills which are often learned outside formal education programmes.
Other signatories include Colliers International, Countdown, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Fonterra Cooperative Group, Foodstuffs North Island, Kiwirail, Metlifecare, Soul Machines, Spark New Zealand, Summerset Group, The Warehouse, Vector, and Xero.