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Upskilling workers key to disruptive tech

Removing barriers faced by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as well as technological disruptions were the main issues discussed during the second meeting of the Future of Work Tripartite Forum.

The Forum is a partnership among Government; business, which is represented by Business NZ; and workers, who are represented by the Council of Trade Unions.

Shaping the Government’s work, as they support the New Zealand workers and businesses, in order to confidently face the rapidly changing nature of work, is the main reason behind the formation of the Forum.

According to a recent report, the meeting included presentations from companies like McKinsey and NZ Tech on the topic of technological disruption in the business sector.

There is a massive growth in technologies globally. There technologies such as robotic surgery, drones, artificial intelligence (AI), cellular agriculture, inductive transfer and autonomous vehicles were once considered as science fiction.

All the aforementioned technological changes will make businesses more productive. However, they will also have significant impacts on the way employees work.

According to the President of the Council of Trade Unions, the key element in adapting to this change is to guarantee that the people have the right skills for the future.

Understanding the measures that are required to be taken in order to avoid technological unemployment is needed.

There are also the aggravations of serious skills shortages in key industries such as manufacturing.

A confirmed funding worth NZ$ 250,000 from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will be put towards supporting the initial component of the Skills Shift in Manufacturing Initiative.

This is initiative is created and led by the NZ Manufacturers Network in order to identify the skills shifts needed in manufacturing to support the workforce as they take on the opportunities of technological change.

A discussion on the impact of the changing nature of work on SMEs also happened during the meeting. The barriers being faced by SMEs were shared by the CEO of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce.

Some of the barriers, according to him, are unrecognisable given the changing nature or work.

Although a lot of the focus of the technological disruptions is on the larger businesses driving headline-grabbing changes, business of different sizes can drive and benefit from the changing nature of technology and work.

It is significant, especially in New Zealand, that Government, businesses and workers approach this future together.

Presentations were also made by the Research, Science and Innovation Minister on the Government’s Just Transitions Unit, and by Workplace Relations Minister on progress around the High Performance High Engagement initiative.

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