Hanga-Aro-Rau leading regional transformation to address workforce needs

“Hanga-Aro-Rau has been outstanding in seeking the voice of industry, interviewing people and showing up for us.” – Raymond Clark, Workforce Central Dunedin

Hanga-Aro-Rau Workforce Development Council (WDC) is working alongside Workforce Central Dunedin to address workforce needs now and for the future. In collaboration with Waihanga Ara Rau, a new Trades Essentials programme has been developed to support the needs of the region. In its creation, qualification developers worked in partnership with industry and providers at advisory group meetings, developing the specific learning outcomes that industry needs. The programme is now being implemented to address future skills shortages and support the workforce demands of the New Dunedin Hospital.

“We know that the workforce needs of the new hospital cannot be met locally, so Workforce Central Dunedin is acting as a hub designed to bring those people and skills here from the regions,” says Raymond Clark, Workforce Central Dunedin Operations Manager. “The Trades Essentials programme was imagined to establish our future workforce needs, find a cohort to fill that need, and proactively train them now.”

Hanga-Aro-Rau has been working alongside Workforce Central Dunedin to develop a roadmap for what has become the wider Trades Essentials programme. “Hanga-Aro-Rau set up an advisory skills group and created a framework for what Trade Essentials might look like. That work has been ongoing for three months and we’re now preparing to take it to NZQA.” “Trades Essentials is designed to enhance employment opportunities and prepare people to enter the trades workforce for the first time,” says Jack Newton, Hanga-Aro-Rau Qualifications System Developer. “It is a unique solution for ākonga to gain recognition for the essential core skills, knowledge, aptitude and attributes needed to enter the workforce successfully.”

This builds upon work that Workforce Central Dunedin has been doing in collaboration with Waihanga Ara Rau since May 2023, including developing a cable-laying qualification (pending NZQA approval). The goal, Raymond says, is to get more trade workers employment-ready now. “We couldn’t do that on our own, so we reached out to Waihanga Ara Rau for their help in creating a bridging programme for construction and infrastructure learners who aren’t likely to do full polytech qualification, and who might struggle to get an apprenticeship as a result. These are people to whom we want to give a leg up, as we know that they can contribute productively with the right support and training. Using the huge catalyst of the Dunedin Hospital build to mobilise this idea, Waihanga Ara Rau and Hanga-Aro-Rau have ran with it and worked with us to create a practical, targeted training for aspiring professionals who may not go the apprenticeship route, but who now have the tools to become a skilled trades assistant or handyman.”

This new approach to learning will remove some of the historical barriers for employees to get into an apprenticeship, Raymond says. “Not everyone is a good fit for the polytech system and some people find the formal study too long; they’d like to learn in smaller chunks. Micro-credentials make learning smaller, practical and more accessible. The WDCs are bringing that lens to the ecosystem and enabling industry to see that it’s possible to do learning differently and more quickly while still getting a great result. Those who complete the Trades Essentials programme will be the next apprentices because they’ve already done that first step and can now get a foot into industry.”

Workforce Central Dunedin has benefitted from both a local presence by Waihanga Ara Rau and nationwide support from the Hanga-Aro-Rau team, Raymond says. “Waihanga Ara Rau has a relationship manager based here in Dunedin who has been incredibly available with accessible, innovative solutions, and Hanga-Aro-Rau has been outstanding in seeking the voice of industry, interviewing people and showing up for us. Both teams have put in time with our stakeholders and given us confidence that we can have ownership of and access to pathways into industry. We feel that those relationships are being well maintained and that we’re not only being heard, but we’re also seeing the follow-through of those discussions. For us, the positive impact of the WDCs over the last 18 months has been massive.”

Raymond says he can already see these collaborative relationships gaining momentum in the years ahead. “Both WDCs have allowed us to imagine things and bring innovation we could never have achieved on our own. They are the main connectors of Industry Training Organisations, Te Pūkenga and industry; they’re uniquely placed in the landscape to pull different groups together. Their willingness to be innovative is what will shape our future, and I believe that they will only grow in terms of their influence. We had no real options around qualifications before the WDCs; we didn’t think that inventing a new qualification was something we could do. Very quickly, Waihanga Ara Rau and Hanga-Aro-Rau gave us the confidence and the capability to achieve something that we never would’ve believed possible two years ago.”