Skills group ‘unashamedly parochial’

Paul Marshall
Paul Marshall
The new interim Southland Regional Skills Leadership Group (SRSLG) is "unashamedly parochial in outlook", co-chairman Paul Marshall says.

"We have a very clear focus on what is best for Southland.

"Our role is to provide advice about the labour market and we have been given assurances that our advice will be heard by employment minister Willie Jackson."

The interim SRSLG is one of 15 groups throughout the country established to address current and future disruptions in regional labour markets because of Covid-19.

Southland is also expecting an additional disruption "signalled by the proposed Tiwai Point smelter closure next year".

In addition to manufacturing and processing industries, the group will be working with primary industry bodies such as DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand to address the significant staffing shortages within the agricultural sector.

"It is not surprising as there is a heavy reliance on primary and processing industries in Southland.

"The brief from Government is we need to retain as many full-time positions for New Zealand citizens as possible but equally we just can’t magic up people with the prerequisite skills for industries such as those needed by agricultural contracting.

"My understanding is come spring cultivation, for example, there is going to be a shortage of skilled agriculture drivers.

"Our group is cognisant of all those issues.

"We are not a talkfest, as people will expect action and that is really important."

The group will also work with Great South and other stakeholder groups to retain as many workers and jobs in the region as possible.

The Tuatapere dairy farmer and Thriving Southland founding director was named co-chairman of the group last month, along with Aimee Kaio, the Ngai Tahu representative.

Another 13 members were selected by funder, MBIE, including representatives from Fonterra, Ballance Agri-Nutrients, and Alliance Group.

"We had our first meeting last week and the calibre of the group [members] is outstanding.

"They are all committed to doing the very best they can for the Southland region. "

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