There is a gold rush in the Bay of Plenty. The Kiwifruit Industry is positively booming and is struggling to attract enough people to the industry to keep up with its rapid growth. What career pathways are currently available? What is the extent of current labour attraction strategies? And how can the Kiwifruit sector connect local people with local jobs to both; meet the labour demands of a rapidly growing industry and help revitalise impoverished communities in the Bay of Plenty? The main thrust for this research is to firstly outline the current labour situation and then identify opportunities within the Kiwifruit industry to create pathways to careers. This project aims to gain an understanding of the labour problems facing the kiwifruit industry and to create a desirable offering for jobseekers to create a prosperous and robust workforce.
The New Zealand kiwifruit sector is currently producing 143 million trays per year, which is projected to reach 190m trays by 2027. The kiwifruit industry currently employs more than 15,000 full time equivalent workers. An additional 7,000 workers are required by 2027 if projected growth is to be achieved. The Kiwifruit Industry is struggling to employ sufficient workers, which has been exacerbated by the response to the Covid 19 pandemic. There has been a massive drop in the number of RSE workers and backpackers using a working holiday visa due to Covid 19 and those positions now have to be filled by New Zealanders. In 2019 a labour shortage was declared in the Bay of Plenty with a peak shortage of 2,500 workers.
There are several factors affecting the industry’s ability to attract and retain staff including; transport and accommodation issues, negative perceptions of the industry around pay and working conditions and the inconsistent nature of seasonal work. Labour constraints present the biggest challenge in meeting future growth projections for the industry.
The industry needs to extend its labour attraction strategies and provide more ‘earn while you learn’ opportunities as well as kaupapa Maori learning environments to attract more Maori to the industry particularly at higher levels of employment and governance where there is a lack of representation. Government departments need to work alongside training organisations and industry groups to employ and train New Zealanders, particularly those who are under-utilised in the workforce. Initiatives to improve attractiveness of roles should focus on improved flexibility (part-time work), reliability of work hours, extended seasonal work contracts and collaboration across industries.
A holistic approach is needed so the Kiwifruit industry can simultaneously; realise the huge growth opportunities ahead as well as lifting the productivity and prosperity of New Zealanders to create thriving communities.
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James Hart, Kellogg Course 42, 2021