The Construction Sector Accord’s Judy Zhang led the panel of Fulton Hogan’s Alena Taylor, Philip Aldridge from Waihanga Ara Rau and Aurecon’s Josie FitzGerald in a discussion focussing on people as the heart of the sector.

Some great case studies and initiatives were canvassed as the role of employer and workplace culture were explored and the impact these could have on productivity and long-term careers in the sector. Wraparound support for people new to the workforce or sector is proving to be a great success as a first step in people’s career. There is also an opportunity to target a more diverse population with more flexible work options. In a highly competitive labour market, the infrastructure and development sector needs to be seen to be offering a visible opportunity for employees with high earnings and the ability to establish a great career. The panel noted that the Construction Accord and the vocational education and training reforms are establishing a closer relationship between government and employers. Their vision is for a thriving, fair and sustainable sector.

Warwick Quinn from Te Pūkenga then gave an engaging keynote presentation in this concurrent session on What changing demographics mean for workers available.

New Zealand has a shrinking pool of school leavers, an ageing population, and net migration currently which will be challenging for all sectors. Compared to Europe, New Zealand has a very high reliance on institutional learning rather than integrating this into the workplace. Warwick also provided a timely update on the Reform of Vocational Education and its key objectives of creating a system that is fit for the future, addresses equity and financial performance, better reflects employer and learner needs, has a growing number of learners and firms using VET, and integrates Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The sector was encouraged to participate in the implementation of the new system and take up the opportunities presented, given that employees are now recognised as education providers.