Aotearoa New Zealand’s Skills Revolution: Investing To Grow Tomorrow’s Prosperous, Future-fit & Capable Kiwis


By Kerry Topp, Associate Director, Transformation and Innovation

We can’t slow down the rate of technological change, change is rapid and all around us. The skills cycle, the rate at which skills are needed, is rapidly increasing both globally and in New Zealand. 

 We are at the crucible moment where leaders in Aotearoa New Zealand need to be proactive and responsible in the “right-skilling” or retraining of their workforce. For right-skilling, organisations need to have a strategic plan for talent to make the shift. Any good talent strategy should focus on retaining and training existing talent, as well as acquiring new workers.

“It’s becoming more important to prepare than adapt. By the time you realize the need to adapt, it may already be too late.”Greg Satell | Author | Speaker | Innovation Adviser

In this context, what can we do as leaders to ensure our organisations, society and above all, our people, are future-fit and ready, now? In this post we will look at why we believe it is crucial for corporate leaders to increase their investment in employees’ skills today so New Zealand Aotearoa is able to increase the prosperity, wellbeing and capability of our people, organisations and country, tomorrow.

The Skills Revolution Is Here!

Recently Manpower, a global leader in contingent and permanent recruitment workforce solutions, asked 18,000 employers in 43 countries across six industry sectors how they expect technology will impact their business in the next two years, and how they are ensuring their workforce has the right skills and is ready to adapt – specifically, they looked at:

  • The likely impact of automation on headcount in the next two years,
  • Which functions will be most affected,
  • The strategies they are adopting to ensure they have the skills they need for technological advances.

“We are seeing the emergence of a Skills Revolution — where helping people upskill and adapt to a fast-changing world of work will be the defining challenge of our time.“ – Jonas Prising | Chairman & CEO | ManpowerGroup

What Manpower found was that more than 90 percent of employers expect their organization to be impacted by digitisation in the next two years. In addition, on average, by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skillsets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today.

The World Economic Forum identified that skills cycles are shorter than ever before and some 65 percent of the jobs Gen Z will perform do not even exist yet. They also found that up to 45 percent of the tasks people are paid to do each day could be automated with current technology. We have of course adapted to the evolution of the labour market before — from tellers to customer service representatives, typists to word processors and personal assistants — disrupting, destroying, redistributing and recreating work is nothing new. The difference now is the life cycle of skills is shorter than ever and change is happening at an unprecedented scale.

“On average, by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today.” – World Economic Forum

The Conclusion Is Widespread

It is not just Manpower or The World Economic Forum that are drawing similar conclusions. The evidence of a skills revolution is also coming through loudly from the likes of the Big Four and research organisations, like McKinsey & Co, Gartner, PWC as well:

  • 51 percent of all activities can soon be done without humans, impacting and changing 60 percent of current jobs [McKinsey, Future of Work 2017].
  • The future of the workforce will be dominated by those born between 1980-mid 90s. And what they want from work is different. A strong sense of alignment on values and purpose, over profit, is the main goal. According to PWC’s Managing tomorrow’s people: The future of work to 2020 report, 88 percent are looking for alignment on corporate social responsibility, with their personal values.
  • According to PWCs Workforce of the Future study, 74 percent of global employees are now actively up-skilling themselves to take advantage of the new economy.
  • A study by Mavenlink found that given the opportunity, 65% of workers would pursue contract work. Whilst it’s not a new addition to hiring trends, it’s still worth calling out that flexibility is key, with the option to work remotely influencing the likelihood of accepting a position for 68% of new workforce entrants. There are many more ways to ‘work’ emerging and becoming main-stream. Which opens up new and creative ways for organisations to run their HR budgets, and individuals to design a career with more flexibility.

Those With The Right Skills Will Thrive

Based on this research, it is clear, those with the right skills will increasingly be in the driving seat, create new opportunities and have the choice and flexibility to work where, how, and when they like. Those lacking the right skills will increasingly be left behind and the outlook for the future for them is not rosy. There is a continued polarisation of the population that is playing out right in front of all our eyes and it will, if not rapidly addressed, be costly for society and business.

How Do We Ensure NZInc Has The Right Skills To Thrive?

At Datacom, we believe that now is the time for company leaders to be responsive and responsible! We cannot slow the rate of technological advance or globalisation, but we can invest in employees’ skills to increase the resilience of our people, organisations but also society. I contend that we are seeing the emergence of what World Economic Forum calls, the Skills Revolution.

Yes, individuals absolutely need to nurture their ‘learnability’: their desire and ability to learn new skills to stay relevant and remain employable; but leaders in New Zealand need to take immediate action to fast track the upskilling and reskilling of existing employees to ensure New Zealand Aotearoa has access to a workforce with the skills required for the future.

So, let’s have a look at what we are doing to support the resilience of our people.

In a recent McKinsey survey, 75 percent of executives said they believed reskilling would fill at least half of their future talent needs, given the war for talent and hiring difficulties. The survey highlighted that people working in IT and customer-facing roles are likely to see the greatest increases in demand, but they also anticipated rapid growth in demand across almost all industries and geographies for data analysts required to make sense of big data, and for specialised sales, product and commercial managers to commercialise new digitised offerings.

At Datacom we firmly believe that from learning comes creativity and from creativity comes innovation. One of the activations we have in this space is Datacomp, our annual innovation hackathon, which has been running since 2012 and is designed to keep our people sharp and give them an opportunity to trial and test new skills and experiences in a safe environment.

Watch Datacomp 2018 video

One of the benefits of Datacomp is that every year each person in our business gets the chance to take part in a significant learning and development opportunity. Our goal in providing the program – called Datacomp StayingSharp – is simple, to add to our peoples’ C.V.s! Not because we want them to go, but rather, because we want them to stay.

Over the last seven years that Datacomp has been running we have seen over 1,000 people trained in lean canvasing, design thinking, presenting and pitching, plus get ongoing exposure to the latest technology and insights.

Having The Opportunity And Feeling Safe Are Important

Our view is that giving our people the opportunity to keep up-to-date with the latest trends, ways of working and tech is positive and inspiring for all – most importantly, our people and customers. We aim to give our people a safe environment to experiment and try new things, things that they don’t necessarily have the opportunity to do in their day job.

Datacomp 2018 winners

Winning team from Datacomp 2018

We don’t do this lightly. We are actively and deliberately seeking to lead our own people and also other organisations to keep up with the ever-demanding skills cycle.

“Remember, you’re not in charge. You are responsible for those in your charge.” – Simon Sinek | Founder | Visionary | Author | Speaker

As Simon Sinek, internationally acclaimed speaker and author, said leaders are not responsible for the job. Leaders are responsible for the people, who are responsible for the job.

Watch Simon Sinek speak.

If we accept that the pace of technological change has accelerated us to a crucible moment where leaders in Aotearoa New Zealand need to invest in employees’ skills today to increase the prosperity, wellbeing & capability of our people, organisation & country, tomorrow, then as a leader, I encourage you to ask yourself: what are you doing to deliver a brighter future for your people?

Further references


Why you should work in IT

By Siobhan Keogh

People have a lot of ideas about the IT industry – that it’s just for geeks, that staff code into the night, that it’s boring – but none of those things could be further from the truth. IT is one of the most exciting, and promising, career paths young people can choose – here’s why.

IT graduates are in high demand

The supply of IT workers globally is not keeping up with demand – that’s great news for those studying, or thinking of studying, computer science subjects.

According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Occupational Outlook Report for 2014, demand for workers in STEM occupations is growing. The report ranks careers by income, study fees, and job prospects. The data for the IT occupations ranked – ICT and Telecommunications Technicians, ICT Business and Systems Analysts, and Software Developers – showed that job prospects in the industry were good.

Because demand for IT graduates is high, so too are the incomes. Software developers and business /systems analysts are both high-income occupations, according to the Occupational Outlook Report.

Demand doesn’t show any signs of slowing down – in fact, venture capital is being invested more in software start-ups than in any other kind of company, and developers are on the Government’s long-term skills shortage list.

Something new every day

IT is a diverse field, ranging from hands-on technicians, to programmers, to project managers and analysts. And if you are any one of those things, most IT organisations will give you the opportunity to upskill in whichever way you choose.

The rapid rate of change in the IT industry means that there’s always a new technology to explore or a new project to work on. You’ll never find yourself wanting for a new challenge in the IT industry, and every time you take one on, you become more valuable to both the company you work for and any potential employers.

IT is everywhere

No matter what your interests are outside of technology, there’s something you can work on that will cross over. Interested in books? Your local library has an IT department. Cooking? You could be asked to design a website for your favourite restaurant.

You might not even be that technically-minded – instead of being a developer or engineer, you could work in IT recruitment, management or marketing. People are needed to fill those roles in the IT sector, too.

While working in IT, you’ll find yourself learning about and becoming interested in things you never thought you’d care about. Thinking through how to solve other people’s problems using technology means that you inevitably become invested in the environment that created those problems – and that background could be in anything, such as agriculture, or investment banking, or construction.

You’re never the smartest person in the room

There’s a phrase that goes, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room”. The IT industry is full of some of the world’s cleverest, most innovative people and throughout your career in IT you’ll have the opportunity to learn from them.

Your career doesn’t have to be your whole life

Everyone has a life outside of their career, and IT companies offer a level of flexibility that most industries don’t.

According to Forbes, 50 percent of senior project managers in the US say they can work from home some or most of the time. Network engineers, software architects and IT architects also make Forbes’ list of highly-paid but flexible workers.

It’s totally possible to have a family, a social life, and a successful career in IT. If you need to telecommute sometimes, or need to leave the office to go pick up your child from school, most organisations won’t raise an eyebrow, especially if you’ve proven yourself to be reliable.

Okay, you’re convinced. But how do you pursue a career in IT?

In New Zealand and Australia, your best course of action is to choose a university course in the STEM field. STEM subjects are highly transferrable, so if you work in the sciences you might be able to switch to an IT career later on.

People who come into the IT industry straight out of university have usually studied subjects like computer science, information technology, creative technologies, and information systems. Most of these courses provide an overview of many different technology specialisations, allowing you time to figure out which disciplines you’re good at.