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More work-ready staff needed for growing Logistics and Distribution sector

The logistics and distribution sector, including wholesale trade, is showing signs of staff and skills resource constraints with 700 local positions needing to be filled in the next five years.

Locally, job growth and earnings in the logistics and distribution sector has been growing above the national average and now employs more than 8,000 people.

The sector was identified by the Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA) foundation research project and the Regional Growth Strategy as a key opportunity for growth.

Given the growth, CEDA and Immigration New Zealand commissioned a Labour Market Survey to ascertain issues in the industry.

CEDA's Chief Executive Linda Stewart says the logistics and distribution sector has been performing strongly in Palmerston North, Manawatū, and Whanganui.

“Our central location and good infrastructure is increasingly becoming more desirable for companies in this sector.”

Ms Stewart says the report highlights that a pending bottleneck is approaching and therefore action is required to ensure the sector can continue to grow.

“To meet the demand for new staff and skills we need support from the sector and education institutes,” says Ms Stewart.

Philip Hastings, Relationship Manager at Immigration NZ, says that the survey has helped facilitate discussions with the sector on current and future skill requirements.

“Continued growth,” he says, “will place pressure on the sector going forward and there is an opportunity for an integrated approach to supporting the sector with its resourcing needs. This could include the attraction and retention of migrants with the skills needed to support the sector where these skills cannot be obtained from the domestic labour market.”

As part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s approach the Road Freight Industry and Government formed a partnership in 2016 under the Sector Workforce Engagement Programme (SWEP). This is to improve employers’ access to reliable, appropriately skilled staff at the right time and place, whilst giving priority to domestic job seekers including beneficiaries.

The Industry have agreed to a national strategy and have appointed Steve Divers, as the Director – Career Pathways to deliver this.

A pilot programme is already underway in Palmerston North with the Ministry of Social Development to identify jobseekers who hold heavy vehicle licences, have them assessed, upskilled and presented to local employers.

Linda Stewart says the report has found that at present the sector is not seen as a desirable as a long-term career path for younger people, and the sector as a whole has not placed much emphasis on changing this.

To address this, CEDA and Talent Central have created an industry working party.

“We are keen to ensure local young people are aware of the opportunities at hand and have the opportunity to upskill, so they are ready to take up roles as they become available,” says Kelly Gay, Talent Central’s Director of Student Futures. “We worked with the logistics and distribution companies to help them prepare for the 2017 Sort It Careers Expo and are progressing ideas to help ignite interest in the sector among young people.”

In all, 51 businesses took part in the survey. Together, they service a variety of sectors: 17% Agriculture, 16% Food and Food Processing, 15% Manufacturing, 13% Construction, 13% Wholesaling, 12 % retail and 8% forestry.

Of the companies surveyed, most said recent recruitments were locally sourced and trained 37% while a further 32% came from local competitors. 17% came from around the country and 14% from overseas.

The sector is starting to see some overseas recruitment with 19% having undertaken some form of offshore recruitment recently. Most targeted Australia, UK and North American markets, however, diesel mechanics are being sourced from a number of Asian countries.

While most owners and managers are confident in their ability to source adequately trained staff – pressures are arising. Currently, 570 FTEs in the sector are over 55 years of age. Adding to this, growth in the sector means a further 166 additional roles will need to be filled – Indicating 700 new employees will be required in the short to medium term.

The report has highlighted challenges to attracting new talent to the industry. These include a feeling that earning levels are not attractive, poor public perception of the career opportunities, lack of promotion of sector and entry training challenges for those entering the sector.

One of the recommendations of the report is to create a nationally recognised record of employment history and qualifications as well as sector refreshment programmes – these findings have been referred to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment for consideration.

The Palmerston North city and Manawatū-Whanganui Distribution and Logistics Sector Labour Market Survey 2016 was completed by Ron Armstrong who has 40 years’ experience in executive positions developing transport solutions for industry users.  Analysis and Report writing carried out by Mr Armstrong and CEDA employees.

The report can be found here: Distribution and Logistics Sector Survey Report.

For more information contact:
Linda Stewart
Chief Executive
027 801 6434


Kelly Gay
Director of Student Futures
Talent Central
021 747 003

This was published in the Latest News newsletter on June 23, 2017. Sign up here to receive our newsletters directly

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