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The Otago-Southland Employers Association and the Otago Chamber of Commerce both bemoaned the lack of skills coming out of some institutions, leaving the region with the need to import workers.
BusinessNZ called for a work programme to be established to address the issues and recommendations the Productivity Commission released yesterday.
BusinessNZ chief executive Kirk Hope welcomed the Government's response to the commission's investigation into New Models of Tertiary Eduction.
He said he wanted to see ongoing engagement with business and industry on how to progress the recommendations.
Gaining new knowledge and skills, getting to grips with changes in technology and preparing to take on new roles all demanded continual learning, he said.
New Zealand invested a lot in tertiary education to meet the needs of students, communities and the economy.
The OECD noted New Zealand had one of the highest levels of mismatches between the skills produced by the education system and those actually used in work, Mr Hope said.
Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Paul Goldsmith said in a speech the current strong demand for labour and skills, provided a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of young men and women and some older people as well.
''We have a chance to get people into work, in families where that hasn't occurred consistently for generations, thereby making real progress on a long-standing social problem.
''That's why it's so important the tertiary system is responsive and innovative.''
There was a challenge of matching the skills produced with what the country needed, he said.
A stake example was the continuous struggle to get talented young people into the trades.
Better information could be put into the hands of students about the options for work, careers they could have and the employment outcomes from specific courses.
''But in the trades space particularly, we're still fighting against entrenched attitudes, among parents, educators and the community at large that steer bright enterprising young people away from a career in the trades and technical areas.''
That attitude had to change.
The Government was willing to put money in but it needed the buy-in from parents, careers advisers, educators and the wider community, Mr Goldsmith said.
The support was needed to help young people into trade professions because they were not just the courses for the students struggling at school.
They were also essential for building the houses and roads needed, and all of the other infrastructure in which the Government was investing heavily.
The strategy would be developed during the next 12 months and a new Tertiary Education Strategy would be released next year.