Growing Our Region

Bridging the gap between education and employment

According to the Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA) at least 700 new jobs will be needed in the next five years within the logistics and distribution sector, and that is just in the Manawatu!

It is expected that logistics and distribution will become the region’s second largest industry after healthcare by 2021. 
So how do we best prepare our young people to gain the right skills to move into this growing sector? Right now, more than ever before, it is critical that industry, education institutes and development agencies work together to find and create solutions.
The Manawatu-Whanganui Economic Action Plan also identifies this need, with pathways for students to connect from education to employment listed as an immediate priority within the talent and skills enabler.

A skills and talent group has been set up to drive this enabler for the region, with former Manawatu Mayor, Margaret Kouvelis as chair. The group which involves leaders from MSD, UCOL, CEDA and the Chamber of Commerce has come together to support a number of initiatives already underway and to look at new initiatives. The group is currently focusing on work ready training for logistics; construction and civil engineering; customer service, retail and call centres.

One such initiative addressing the barriers to young people achieving employment is the National Driver Training Centre (NDTC) based at Manfeild, Feilding.

“When a young person in our region doesn’t have their driver’s license, particularly if they are based outside of the main centres it is incredibly difficult for them to find a job, let alone get to work on a regular basis,” says Katie Brosnahan of MSD.

“It’s a real issue for school leavers, because when they can’t start a job, it affects their confidence and motivation and it’s only a downward spiral from there.”

Steering Aotearoa, an initiative of the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, has been developed for the region by Talent Central in conjunction with Manfeild. The goal is to have every student in the region achieve their restricted license before they leave school. With 36 secondary schools in the region and 2,900 16 year olds students attending, this is no easy task by any means but it is one the team at Manfield are prepared to tackle.

“We know that 85% of school leavers in our region do so without a license” says Margaret Kouvelis.

In December 2016, 36 students participated in a pilot training programme, with 100% achieving their learners’ license over a period of two days. Those students, travelling from 13 schools ranging in location from Whanganui to Levin, Marton, Feilding and Palmerston North are now back in the July school holidays to train for and sit their restricted driver’s licenses.  

“Manfield is a regional facility and the programmes we offer are available to students from around the Manawatu-Whanganui region and even further afield if need be,” says Manfield sales manager and NDTC programme manager Michael Barbour.

Michael is working on making the programme not only operational on a regional scale but also affordable for its participants. This means funding is required. The National Driver Centre is delivered by Manfeild in conjunction with Talent Central, Horizons Regional Council, VTNZ and the New Zealand Transport Agency. Michael is also looking for corporate sponsorship as well as funding from charitable entities, as the NDTC is a charitable trust.

“Due to increased demand to meet training and employment requirements in the distribution and logistics sector, NDTC is diversifying into other types of licensing including heavy vehicles, forklift and quad bike drivers training. The sector is crying out for these programmes and NTDC is ready to deliver,” says Michael.

“We had one employment provider call us up and ask whether we do heavy vehicle training, we said yes, we just need the equipment. The provider said not a problem, we will have some tractors delivered tomorrow,” says Michael.

“The need is so great and we want to make sure kids are well informed on what opportunities are available to them.”

Talent Central is heavily involved in supporting this initiative as their primary focus is connecting school leavers with jobs. Talent Central is funded by schools, tertiary institutes and business making sure that the talent in our region is work ready to meet the demands of our region. Talent Central has facilitated projects from primary sector scholarships, through to Work Readiness Passports and the NDTC.

“At Talent Central we are all about trying to work with partners to make connections easier,” says director Kelly Gay.
“There is lots of cool innovative stuff happening around our region, its about connecting people and keeping a focus on employment opportunities for the region.”

Katie Brosnahan’s team at the Ministry for Social Development have also been running a civil construction training programme for the last four years, available to their clients looking for work, with 185 participants moving into employment.

The courses came about when contractors were crying out for people to work on the ‘MacKays to Peka Peka route’, the four lane expressway through Paraparaumu and Waikanae. This work increased demand on the civil construction industry in Horowhenua and Kapiti. While the existing workforce was highly trained, demand for additional labour was high.

Participants in the course included a father who was the sole parent of two children aged 10 and 12 and a man looking for work since being made redundant after 20 years in the meat processing industry. Both now work full time from 7.00am-6.00pm plus Saturday mornings, and “love” the job!

“Our clients encounter a number of barriers to employment, however the provision of training opportunities, particularly in sectors which are in desperate need for trained employees, is one step in overcoming those barriers,” says Katie.

Katie has also found the Accelerate25 programme has been beneficial in encouraging agencies to work together on the issues rather than in silos.

“Accelerate25 is a conduit to getting a number of agencies in the one room, working together.”

“I feel the Accelerate25 Lead Team have seen the potential of what we have to offer and we are now all focusing on the same key industries,” says Katie.

For more information on the National Driver Training Centre visit, for more information about Ministry of Social Development’s civil construction courses contact and for more information on Talent Central visit