Women key to filling New Zealand’s trades worker shortage

With only 15 per cent of New Zealand’s trades workforce made up of women – and just 2.6 per cent “on the tools”, coupled with a growing national skills shortage, enticing wāhine into trade careers has never been more important. And that was the focus of a job fair in Whangārei on Thursday 10 November 2022.

The Women in Trades event at Barge Park, Maunu gave women of all ages the opportunity to explore different trades careers options and training pathways to take up exciting and dynamic jobs in Northland. It was jointly hosted by Hanga-Aro-Rau and Waihanga Ara Rau Workforce Development Councils (WDCs) and Te Matarau Education Trust.

Hanga-Aro-Rau Chief Executive Phil Alexander-Crawford was thrilled with the turnout.

“We had more than 130 people attend including existing apprentices, those interested in the trades and their whānau, employers and a wide range of education providers. It shows us wāhine are hungry to know more about, and be supported into, trades careers.

“It is also hugely encouraging for our industries as Aotearoa faces a critical skills shortage. We know from our just-released research into the Post COVID-19 workforce development needs in manufacturing and engineering that these two sectors alone will be short of 40,000 workers by 2028 if immediate action is not taken. Women are a major source of untapped talent and can be a big part of the solution.

Mr Alexander-Crawford also said these types of collaboration, which included iwi, hapū and the Pacific community, are essential for reaching potential learners and helping industries fill their skills gaps.

“We are also fortunate in New Zealand to have a growing Māori and Pacific community, and they increasingly are essential for creating an innovative and skilled workforce”.

Chief Executive of Waihanga Ara Rau WDC, Philip Aldridge, said a regional focus is imperative.

“We are committed to working with our regions to support skills development and growth and the success of this event shows what can be achieved through partnership”.

Georgina Connelly, General Manager Te Matarau Education Trust, reiterated that collaboration is key. “This work with Hanga-Aro-Rau and Waihanga Ara Rau is how we wish to work with all parts of our vocational education system to bring change for our people”.

Ms Connelly said while the Women in Trades event was the first of its kind for Whangarei, it will not be the last. The three organisations will host these trade fairs annually to ensure equity is being encouraged and participation in trades is increased each year for women in trades of the Northland region.

Ms Connelly added it was a very humbling experience to be able to work alongside industry, tertiary providers and the community to bring this all together and it was very much a team effort of selecting the right people for the appropriate roles.

“I constantly strive to ensure the integrity of Te Matarau Education Trust and the iwi/hapū we serve are being exceptionally well served as we continue to mahi for the future of our people. You know your mahi has an impact when you awake to messages of gratitude and industry reaching out to collaborate with you.”

Te Matarau Education Trust have actively promoted and championed trades training in Northland for over ten years. They offer fees-free trades training in Northland in conjunction with providers, including Te Pūkenga and Solomon Group. They work alongside Māori and Pasifika students to achieve their professional goals and identify, work towards, and remove barriers to learning. The Trust brings together 5 x iwi/ hapū (Ngati Hine, Nga Takato, Ngati Hau Trust Board, Pasifika Peoples, Ngati Wai Trust Board and Te Uri o Hau Settlement Trust) and the Northland Island Pacific Trust to coordinate this work.

Hanga-Aro-Rau Workforce Development Council represents the manufacturing, engineering, and logistics industries, while Waihanga Ara Rau Workforce Development Council covers the construction and infrastructure sectors. WDCs were established in October 2021 as part of the Government’s Reform of Vocational Education. Their aim is to lead and influence the vocational education system and its transformation and give stronger voice to industry.


Pictured: some of the more than 130 attendees at the Women in Trades event in Whangarei on Thursday 10 November 2022.