19th June, 2018

What kind of workforce do you want?

The government has launched a review of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), and it’s an opportunity for small business owners to shape the next generation of workers.

Its defined purpose was to ensure that NCEA remains fit for purpose and continues to support young people to succeed on a diverse range of pathways.

It’s an issue I’ve seen pop up time and time again during my 30 years of business experience in Europe, Australia and New Zealand – you can only work with what the talent pool offers up.

As a member of New Zealand Business Mentors, I know small business owners get tied up in the day-to-day operational challenges – but it’s vital that they take a longer view and have their say on the relevance of the NCEA.

Why is that?

Well here are a couple of really important facts to consider:

  • Millennials will become the dominant workforce by 2020
  • 500,000 students will enter the workforce between 2020-2030

What we are teaching our children now is massively relevant to the workforce we are building for the future.

So how do we think we are doing in preparing our workforce currently?  I would say not well.  For a few reasons.

Poor Functional Literacy

I have read some pretty scary facts over the past few weeks with the most scary this week being that there were 43 percent of a surveyed population of over 6000 kiwis that function at level 2, below that needed or day to day life.

That’s pretty bad right and doesn’t exactly scream of potential for a massively dynamic future.


It’s no secret that our labour productivity when compared to our OECD neighbours is heading in the wrong direction and has been for a number of years.

This isn’t a reflection of how many hours we’re working, which has grown comparably. Instead, it’s the value of that work done that’s the problem.

Unprecedented industrial disruptions

You may have Googled to see if your job is one of those jobs that is going to be replaced by Automation, AI or some other piece of clever tech.

Advancements in technology are expanding faster that our browsers can refresh and in my work lifetime I already have seen my ruler and higher replaced by fancy software like MYOB Essentials that automatically brings in bank statements and codes them for you.

Say bye to the 1990’s accountant.

Many kids are bored at school 

How many times you have quizzed your kid coming home from school on how their day was?

I try and get creative in the way I try and extract some glimmer of excitement out of my secondary school age son and the truth is – I don’t think he is alone in being uninspired by his time at school.

Ah well only five years to go.  Five years of “Dad – How was your day? Kid – Meh!”

So why is this important to the NCEA review?

It will be hugely important to consider the above points among others in the upcoming NCEA review so that we can think about what sort of workforce do we need now and into the future.

In 20+ years working in finance and technology industries I have seen immense change and some of the key attributes and capabilities of employees of shifting.

Many workplaces are now working in almost constant change.

Their customers, suppliers, technology needs are all evolving quickly and as such the employees who work in them need to be very adaptable.  And this is hard.

Employees are increasingly needed to handle lots of change, operate in uncertainty, solve problems and innovate in the way they work and it’s unclear how the current school and educational environment is equipping them for this new world.

Schools are unfortunately caught in a situation where getting the credits is the goal. Drive down your roads and see how the school are rating themselves.

They, sadly, lack the time and resources to deliver all that they want to do for students in this current environment of assessment and teachers are overloaded by assessment and just getting the curriculum content across to their students.

We need to consider the needs of all future employees and the capabilities and job pathways they need to be ready for.

Then, we can equip them as best we can to be ready to enter the workforce not only ready to work, but more importantly, ready to continue to learn and develop to keep pace with a world doing just that.

Have your say on NCEA here