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The Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA) and Immigration New Zealand have renewed a Regional Partnership Agreement, which sets out how the two organisations can work together to support the attraction, retention and settlement of migrants in the Manawatū-Whanganui region.

The agreement and subsequent action plan is underway from now until 2021 and includes identifying the current contribution of skilled migrant labour to the economy and the projected workforce demand in the sectors that are experiencing strong growth.

The action plan also incorporates activities that will be led, facilitated or managed by either CEDA or Immigration New Zealand such as raising employers’ awareness and capability around employing workers from offshore and building the capability of international tertiary students to help meet regional skills shortages.

“It is important to support business activities through the attraction and retention of skilled migrants where no suitable or available New Zealanders can be found to fill the role,” says Immigration New Zealand’s General Manager of Strategy, Engagement and Education, Steve McGill.

Construction worker

Multiple bodies of research show that a lack of access to the right skills and talent is the biggest barrier to business growth in the region and beyond. This partnership can make significant inroads to help alleviate the pressure and future proof our region.

A recent study commissioned by CEDA is the Manawatū Food Production Sector Skills Gap Research, which revealed skills gaps are occurring in multiple areas across the sector, from the most senior and highly skilled positions like scientists and engineers to temporary positions like processing and harvesting roles.

Agriculture and food tech are a vital thread to our regional and New Zealand economies. In Manawatū, the agrifood sector employs more than 8,600 people and contributed $606 million to the region’s economy in the year to March 2018. Strong primary sector prices are underpinning levels of economic growth that have not been seen for many years in Manawatū.

Interviewees included representatives from across the entire food value chain from horticulture, dairy, sheep and beef farming, meat processing, research and development, robotics and technology, and business development and training.

The findings showed strong support from interviewees for accessing temporary and permanent migrant labour, however they said it can be perceived as a difficult process to navigate. They said businesses would welcome support, resources and information to help them.

“This partnership is one of only four in New Zealand and is significant for the region because it can act as a lever to connect businesses with international talent to meet their needs,” says CEDA’s Chief Executive Linda Stewart.

“A central pillar of economic development is people because accessing the right skills and talent can be what accelerates or constrains businesses’ ability to grow.”

CEDA is focused on building a talent pipeline for the region and is leading the development of an integrated talent attraction and retention strategy for Manawatū focused on five crucial elements for talent: attraction, reception, integration, reputation and management of the eco-system.

International tertiary students are a group that is central to this work and CEDA partners with education providers and other organisations to build the capability of students so they can better understand the pathways to meeting post study work visa and residency requirements.

An example of this is the annual Study to Work Seminar that’s delivered by CEDA in conjunction with the Sort It Careers Expo in May.

“CEDA is taking a wider, more holistic approach to developing and retaining skills and talent in the region and it is important to acknowledge that addressing the challenges of skills gaps and building a talent pipeline is a multi-stakeholder ecosystem,” says Ms Stewart.

The development and implementation of the strategy will be done in partnership with the business community, local councils, iwi, education providers, central government agencies like Immigration New Zealand, Ministry of Social Development and Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, and wider regional economic development plans, Accelerate25 and Te Pae Tawhiti. It is expected to be completed by June 2020.

Resources for businesses and employers:

If you’re an employer who’s wanting to attract talent to the region, our regional website has some great resources that can support you. There’s an entire section dedicated to living and working in Palmerston North and the wider region, as well as case studies of families who have moved here, outlining what it has meant for them, their families and careers. There is also an Image Library on filled with high quality and beautiful imagery of the city and region that is free for you to download and use across your website, social media channels and in job advertisements. Please use and share!

Immigration New Zealand resources:

Immigration New Zealand’s free online SkillFinder tool connects New Zealand employers with skilled workers overseas who have expressed an interest in living and working here.

Immigration New Zealand have recently announced policy changes for temporary work visas and are holding seminars for employers around New Zealand. A seminar is being held in Palmerston North on Monday 18 November 2019 at Massey University. You can register here.

Immigration New Zealand have recently updated migrant employer and employee guides for the hospitality, dairy and construction sectors.

Welcoming Communities is a two-year pilot programme that has been trialed in Palmerston North and Whanganui, two of five pilot sites around the country. The initiative brings together council and the community to roll out the welcome mat to newcomers including migrants, former refugees and international students, as well as New Zealanders relocating to Palmerston North. You can learn more about the programme, here.

For more information:
[email protected]
06 350 1830

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