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New programme addresses skills shortage as tech shakes up primary industries

A new programme has been launched to address the skills shortage in primary industries, with a focus on technology.

Microsoft, Massey University and not for profit The Collaborative Studio have announced the creation of an Industry 4.0 Leadership and Skills Development programme. Named The Industry 4.0 Accelerator (i4), the programme is designed to connect Massey University students with innovative businesses to equip them with up-to-date and relevant digital skills for their 4th Industrial Age careers.

With agrifood and fibre being New Zealand’s biggest Industry sectors, comprising 67% of the value of exported goods, our agriculture, forestry and fishing processing and manufacturing industries generate approximately NZ$233 billion in total domestic product (GDP).

"Technology is driving transformation in agrifood and fibre at an incredible speed, so it’s vital we move quickly to ensure the education system meets the requirements of what businesses need to be innovative. It’s especially important for the agrifood and fibre sector to remain competitive for years to come and capitalise on brighter thinking and bigger ideas," said Anne Taylor, education lead at Microsoft.

"The Productivity Commission’s latest report into the future of work raised concerns around managing the risks of disruptive technological change and its impact on New Zealand’s workforce. The i4 programme, a collaboration between the private sector and tertiary education, is a good example of how we can collectively work to give students the skills they need to advance in their careers and create a more sustainable future."

Dr Gavin Clark, Dean of Enterprise at Massey University, said the University recognised the benefit of this collaborative approach to prepare students to enter the workforce so they are already equipped with the future skills businesses are demanding, which would also help lift innovation across the sector.

"The rise of new working styles and career paths, like hybrid-jobs and the gig economy, means there is more pressure than ever for employees to combine different skills to meet employer demands. The agrifood and fibre sector has been particularly impacted by this shift. It’s not just about being a farmer or grower anymore, you’ve got to tackle tasks that will likely require new tools, apps and ways of working as the industry keeps pace with the changing environment. The current education programme needs to reflect this shift in focus," Clark says.

Malcolm Fraser, incoming executive director for i4, saysthe programme elements would be shaped over the next 90 days by extensive consultation with industry, as well as government partners and students.

"We’re hosting a series of hackathons for students, business leaders and government to help define the required skills to be integrated into the programme, which is something that’s never been done before. We also want to focus on supporting students from under-served communities in our regional economies."