Industry Stakeholder Group a vital link with industry leaders

“We exist to ensure our education system is fit-for-purpose for industry workforce needs now and into the future,” says Philip Alexander-Crawford, CE of Hanga-Aro-Rau Workforce Development Council (WDC).  “Our Industry Stakeholder Group (ISG) is our direct connection to senior industry leaders from across the country.  They keep us focussed on taking action to make a real difference for our industries.” 

Ngāhiwi Tomoana, the ISG’s newly appointed Chairperson, says that the Group is providing a unique opportunity for regions and industries to cross-pollinate, work collaboratively and provide a united voice of leadership.  “Growing up where I did in Hastings, there were no career paths or channels of vocation; we needed to find a new way to support whānau,” he says.  “I became a voice for unions and Māori industry and started trying to figure out how workers and businesses could influence decision-making.  Hanga-Aro-Rau provides a great advocacy platform and a clear vision to achieve this, but it has been one of the best-kept secrets out there.  I was the Chair of Ngāti Kahungunu when Hanga-Aro-Rau approached the iwi to seek our expertise.  I’ve since seen how they’re bringing directors, owners and executives together with unions, trainees and those who are ready to join training on one poutama (staircase).”

Hanga-Aro-Rau acts as an essential conduit for industry, says Amanda Wood, ISG member and Membership Services Manager, Business Central.  “Hanga-Aro-Rau is giving industry a voice with intent and clarity.  It’s clear that they genuinely care about what industry needs, and that everything they’re doing is to facilitate a two-way conversation that will help them deliver it.  That genuine intent for real listening and engagement speaks to my values as a people leader.”

The ISG is playing a vital role during a turbulent time for vocational education and training, says Ruth Cobb, ISG member and CE of PrintNZ.  “The reform of the vocational education system has brought with it a period of turmoil; bodies like the ISG provide a constant amidst that uncertainty.  Our ability to provide independent feedback to the Hanga-Aro-Rau Board and other external stakeholders including Ministers helps to provide stability and reassure industry that they’re still being heard and represented.”

The ISG is committed to providing ongoing leadership, Amanda says.  “A lot of good mahi has gone into the WDCs and the ISG by a lot of people.  Hanga-Aro-Rau is providing the opportunity for a truly diverse set of voices to be heard, bringing a diversity and richness of experience to inform decision-making.  We have learners who have had a hard couple of years already, so we need to be considering how any further changes will impact them.”  Ruth agrees, “We need to be focussed on the road ahead, looking at the best elements of the vocational education reform and using them to create strong pathways forward.  The WDCs have created essential channels for communication and industry connection that need to be maintained.  The ISG, in particular, provides a unique opportunity to do this by bringing together leaders from a range of industries so we can learn from each other and work through common challenges more efficiently.”

“I’ve never seen such a strong, diverse, unflinching group as Hanga-Aro-Rau and the ISG,” Ngāhiwi says.  “We have to be agile and versatile enough to move with any changes that come.  I don’t think this government or any other wants to see depression in economic development or a reduction in vocational pathways.  What we’ve got to do is give them the benefit of our experience, demonstrate a way we think will work, reflect regional virility and ensure national consistency.  The role of the ISG is to weave all those things together with a united voice and purpose on behalf of all of the diverse sectors we serve.”