Industry Leaders Forum: Jane Wenman, CEO, Careerforce

How was 2020 for Careerforce? What were the highlights? What were the challenges?

As with most organisations across New Zealand, and indeed the world, 2020 will go down as one of our more unusual years. Despite Covid-19, and the presence of the vocational education reforms (RoVE), 2020 has panned out to be a very positive year for Careerforce.

Through Covid-19 and the various lockdowns, we adjusted to a new way of working as an organisation, which staff have embraced, and which has now become the new normal. We have also been trialling an agile methodology across a number of key projects, to improve outcomes and speed to market.

Across the organisation, we have embarked on a journey of cultural confidence. This not only supports our obligations under Te Tiriti, but will also supports the achievement of equitable learning outcomes for our Māori learners.

In July, the Government launched the Targeted Training and Apprenticeships Fund (TTAF) which effectively removed enrolment costs for most of our training programmes, a key barrier to learning.

Disappointingly, this did not extend to our cleaning programmes, but as a show of good faith, we removed all enrolment fees for our cleaning programmes through the remainder of 2020.

We have been actively advocating to the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) that cleaning programmes should absolutely be included in TTAF. This not only reflects the workforce challenges that the cleaning sector faces, but also the critical importance of a trained cleaning workforce as identified by Covid-19.

At the end of January 2021 we received some good news.  TEC confirmed that the New Zealand Certificate in Cleaning (Levels 2 and 3) are covered by TTAF effective from 1 January 2021 and are now fees-free.

Whilst the funding is for the period through to December 2022, the list of eligible qualifications may change over this period, so we cannot assume these qualifications will be covered for this entire period.

I have been very proud of the Careerforce whanāu – who have proven their expertise, leadership, and professionalism over the year when they themselves faced a very unsettling year

How did Careerforce adjust to the impact of the pandemic?

During the COVID-19 lockdown and consequent alert level restrictions, I would also like to pay credit to our organisation’s ability to move swiftly and seamlessly to full remote working, a reflection on the strong business continuity planning, IT infrastructure, and staff resilience in place.

There was always the risk during this time that our engagement and relationships with our stakeholders would suffer. This was not the case, and due to the team’s efforts to continue the support in whatever way possible, I have received only positive feedback from our stakeholders on how Careerforce has engaged throughout 2020.

Another challenge was to ensure we also paid this same attention to our internal relationships and interactions. With more Careerforce staff taking up flexible work options and working from home, it has been vital that we stayed connected across our organisation. This was a new experience for many staff, and we have worked hard to ensure our unique culture and internal networks remained strong.

In March, Careerforce worked swiftly to develop and release a series of online training modules in collaboration with the Ministry of Health in response to the pandemic.

This involved six learning modules, which largely focused on hand hygiene and infection prevention. Topics ranged from how to wash your hands correctly, to how to work as a caregiver for a friend or family member in need.

This partnership was particularly satisfying given the speed and urgency that the learning modules were developed and released, by both Ministry and Careerforce staff.

Like many other organisations, we have seen more online engagement via our learning and assessment platform, Aka Toi, during 2020.   The online learning supplements the practical on-job learning.

We have also worked hard to improve the overall user experience, by introducing fully responsive learning resources and making other continuous enhancements to the platform.

What will be the immediate focus for Careerforce in 2021?

The implementation of RoVE reforms will continue to require attention from Careerforce, but our absolute 2021 focus is on being the best we can be and focusing on improved outcomes for our employers and learners.

As part of the RoVE reforms, Education Minister, Chris Hipkins, announced that there will be six industry-led Workforce Development Councils (WDCs). The “Building and Other Industrial Cleaning Services” sector will fall within the Service Industries Workforce Development Council.

To enable the formal establishment of each WDC, a legal document called an Order in Council is required to give formal effect to each WDC. Consultation on the WDC Order in Council proposals has just commenced, and we encourage you to participate in the consultation. More information is available on the TEC website:

How would you rate the industry’s response to the pandemic?

Whilst extremely unsettling, if there was one good thing to come out of COVID, it is recognition of many of our workers as essential, and this absolutely includes cleaners who were at the forefront of the country’s response to the pandemic.

Our challenge is to not let this opportunity slip, and to continue to build upon this recognition.

How will Careerforce engage with the industry in 2021?

Stakeholder engagement always has been critical and will continue to be so in 2021. In 2021, we expect to engage with the cleaning sector on two key areas.

Firstly, around the ongoing implementation of the vocational education reforms, and ensuring that the needs of employers are not compromised during the reforms.

Secondly, Careerforce has already undertaken a major qualification review of the New Zealand Certificate in Cleaning Levels 2 and 3, involving extensive consultation with stakeholders.

Next, we will be reviewing the programmes associated with these qualifications. We will be asking stakeholders in the cleaning sector to provide their feedback to ensure our learning resources remain fit for purpose.  This is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2021.

What challenges and opportunities do you see for the industry over the next 12 months?

The experience of COVID in 2020, has highlighted the importance and value of cleaning as an ‘essential service’.

As the spotlight is placed on infection prevention, it will be essential that staff are equipped with the necessary skills and latest information about dealing with the issue.

We expect workforce shortages to persist in some cleaning sectors, exacerbated by immigration restrictions.  However, this could be offset by a potential influx of COVID displaced workers from other sectors.

Either way, the impact of COVID, and cleaning methods and practices will greatly impact the sector and the need for cleaner upskilling.

What additional advice or guidance do you have for the cleaning community now and after the pandemic?

2020 has been particularly challenging, and we have been especially proud of our nationwide cleaning workforce who have shone through COVID.  We applaud the fantastic and often unappreciated and unseen work that they do day in, day out.

Careerforce was pleased to be an official sponsor of Thank Your Cleaner Day 2020. It was great to be able to recognise the tens of thousands of skilled, hard-working cleaning staff who work day, night and weekends to keep our working and living environments clean, safe and hygienic.

This article first appeared in the February issue of INCLEAN NZ magazine

Read the original article here.

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