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Connecting local people with local jobs: meeting Waikato’s workforce demands in the freight and logistics sector

Waikato is the heart of the Golden Triangle, with significant volumes of freight generated from and passing through the region daily. With investment in major freight and logistics assets such as the Ruakura Inland Port and strong forecast population growth in the region, the freight and logistics sector is expected to be an important source of growth for the Waikato.

Te Waka’s 2022 Freight Action Plan highlighted the growth potential of this industry, and we expect this to be reflected in the workforce, with 12.4% growth in the freight and logistics workforce expected from 2021 to 2026, the 7th fastest growing sector across the Waikato. With new developments and major logistics and supply chain entrants in the region, this sector will be one of the most significant contributors to our economic growth and an industry that will create an estimated 7,000 new operational-level jobs. Now the big question is, are we ready?

Last week Te Waka brought together regional partners and various agencies involved in supporting workforce development for the freight and logistics sector, in partnership with Hanga-Aro-Rau (the Workforce Development Council for Manufacturing, Logistics and Supply Chain). The objective of our collaborative hui was to explore how we might ‘connect local people with local jobs’ and bring about stronger regional connections to support collective action. We explored what’s currently working, what’s not, and where the gaps are. 

We know that we have a shortage of qualified truck drivers, exacerbated by an ageing workforce. We have heard from employers that they find it difficult to attract, train and retain staff, particularly when engaging our rangatahi. We also understand that there is confusion in the region about the various initiatives and agencies involved in trying to address these issues.

At the hui we heard from the industry about their programmes to grow and upskill their workforces, and the support they need for these programmes to be successful. We connected with education institutions to understand the courses they offer locally and how that might change through the reform of vocational education. We discussed the importance of raising awareness and excitement about the freight and logistics sector as an attractive career pathway for our rangatahi.

Did we find all the answers? Not yet – there’s a lot of work still to do. But we can proudly say we are doing this together by developing action-focused and sector-led initiatives with support from Hanga-Aro-Rau, the Waikato Regional Skills Leadership Group (RSLG), Smart Waikato, the Tertiary Education Commission, the Ministry of Social Development, the Ministry of Education, Wintec-Te Pūkenga, Road to Success, and MITO.

The key to sustaining and developing this current economic and industrial growth lies in fostering a skilled and motivated workforce.  And it must start early, with seamless secondary school transitions and easily accessible pathways for newcomers.

Some common thoughts and suggestions from our hui included:

  • The importance of strong collaboration with industry – by industry, for industry
  • The need to bring local employers together to increase engagement, buy-in and support for the workforce development initiatives that already exist
  • The importance of upskilling employers on how to engage with and manage their trainees effectively, particularly for younger trainees and the pastoral support that may be needed to get the best results
  • The value of building communities around schools, including engaging with school principals, teachers, community, and whanau
  • Opportunities for regional roadshows of current initiatives to make it easier for industry and new talent to engage.

Poipoia Te kākano kia puāwai – Nurture the seed, and it will bloom.

If you or your organisation can contribute to fast-tracking or supporting this kaupapa or would like to know more as a business/employer, please reach out to our Workforce Development Lead, Pratishtha Purohit at

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