The Provincial Growth Fund is partnering with Horticulture New Zealand to maximise the number of New Zealanders employed by the sector and to ensure sustainability of horticultural growth, says Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.
“The PGF will invest $1.1 million in six horticulture career coordinators up and down the country to tackle the labour supply issues facing the horticulture sector,” says Shane.
In Northland, PGF investment will support an established horticultural careers progression manager for an extra 12 months.
This person coordinates information about local labour demand and supply and maintains strong relationships with employers and regional partners such as local schools, relevant agencies and training providers, says Shane.
“The PGF will invest to establish a further five horticulture and viticulture careers coordinators, who will work throughout the Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Upper South Island, Otago and Manawatu regions to help match potential workers with potential employers.”
Horticulture is NZ’s fourth-largest primary industry, worth more than $5.6 billion to the economy in 2017.
“However, people capability has been highlighted as a clear focus for the industry,” says Shane.
“Horticulture is a priority sector for the PGF but there’s no point trying to expand the prospects of this industry if we don’t have people to fill the jobs we’re creating.
“Through our investment we expect to see a marked improvement in the amount of sustainable employment opportunities for domestic workers to meet our goal of having a fit-for-purpose workforce that meets industry standards.”
Currently the industry has 50 apprentices annually. “This project aims to double that – a move that’s well supported by the sector, local and central government and regional economic agencies.”
Shane says the regions involved have an over-representation of people not in employment, education or training.
“A major focus for HortNZ will be engaging with schools and bridging the gap from education to employment,” says Shane.
“We have an opportunity to hook into this untapped pipeline and benefit our young people, our regions and a sector which has a proud and prosperous history in NZ.”