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05 May 2017

New Zealand’s health and wellbeing sector needs an injection of younger workers to combat an imminent skills shortage, according to a new report by a leading economic research agency.

The BERL report on the New Zealand service sector highlighted the important contribution of the aged and disability support sector to the economy and community, but stressed the need for more staff to fuel growing demand for services.

“The demand for carers and support workers is expected to rise as the population ages and the trend for care to move out of hospitals and closer to people’s homes continues,” the report says.

“New Zealand therefore faces similar challenges to the rest of the OECD, with potential shortages of skilled and unskilled staff in the health and disability sectors, and the need for a cohesive and integrated vocational education system that offers opportunities for school leavers and the existing workforce,” it said.

Careerforce Chief Executive Ray Lind says more young people are needed to fill the health and wellbeing sector skills shortage.

“Contrary to other sectors, ours is an aging workforce, with research showing that over half of these workers are aged between 45 and 64,” Mr Lind says.

“This, coupled with our aging population, is a recipe for disaster. So we desperately need to attract more young people to rejuvenate these sectors,” he says.

“As the BERL report indicates, the service sector needs to attract another 200,000 workers between now and 2020, and we know a large chunk of those workers are needed in the health and wellbeing sector,” Mr Lind says.

Careerforce, the Industry Training Organisation for the health and wellbeing sectors, offers a number of workplace-based career pathways for younger people.

Mr Lind says young people who are confident, competent and passionate about people are able to pursue clear career pathways straight from school.

“Careerforce offers a suite of qualifications from Level 2 through to Level 6 in areas such as youth work, mental health and addiction support and disability services, meaning that people can follow their dreams while gaining recognition through on-the-job training.”

“So, we encourage more young people to consider a career in health and wellbeing and take advantage of workplace-based training programmes,” he says.

The Minister of Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, Hon Paul Goldsmith launched the BERL report into New Zealand’s service sector at Parliament on Wednesday evening.

BERL’s research was commissioned by At Your Service Aotearoa, a collaboration between ServiceIQ, Careerforce, Skills Active Aotearoa and HITO.