The search is on for Auckland employers keen to upskill their Pacific employees, via fully funded workplace-based training.

Auckland Unlimited, the region’s economic and cultural agency, is connecting eligible employers and education providers to help upskill Auckland’s Pacific people working in jobs that are less skilled and more likely to be affected by automation and other technological change.

The training ­– externally accredited short courses – is designed to give people the skills and knowledge to adapt to the future of work and the economic impacts of COVID-19, boosting work and life skills, confidence and resilience.

The programme is part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Auckland Pacific Skills Shift Initiative, a four-year initiative that invests in innovative approaches to support Pacific peoples’ labour market progression by focusing on workplace and skills, working with employers, communities and fānau/families. The overall initiative is being delivered by three partners, Auckland Unlimited, Auckland Council’s The Southern Initiative and The Cause Collective. 

Auckland Unlimited General Manager Economic Development Pam Ford says Auckland’s cultural diversity offers significant unrealised potential for the region’s businesses, economy and communities– if its people have equitable access to opportunity.

“The impacts of the global pandemic and economic downturn have aggravated Auckland’s entrenched social and economic inequities.”

“Young Pacific workers are over-represented in retail, hospitality and tourism sectors – the hardest hit by COVID-19.

“Pacific Aucklanders generally are over-represented in less-skilled, lower-paid roles in critical industries, including industries on the frontline of managing the impacts of COVID-19, such as warehousing and logistics, healthcare and manufacturing.”

Pacific people will make up a third of the region’s working age population by 2050, and we want to work with Auckland businesses to boost their employees’ resilience, capability, confidence and wellbeing, so our companies, communities and region has a more skilled and future-ready workforce.

Auckland Unlimited was allocated $8 million from MBIE over four years in Budget 2020 to enable 3500 places on workplace-based training courses for Pacific Aucklanders, following successful pilots in partnership with the Sustainable Business Council, Sanford, Van Den Brink Poultry and The Comfort Group.    

Pam Ford says “We want to partner with Auckland employers in the construction and infrastructure, manufacturing, healthcare, transport and logistics sectors, industries that tend to employ a high proportion of Pacific workers and that are important drivers of Auckland’s economic recovery.”

Courses in financial literacy and digital skills are underway, with more courses in development and the ability to tailor courses to specific industry and business needs. Depending on business and employee needs, Auckland Unlimited can facilitate a single course for a workplace or a group of courses.

“All the courses incorporate problem-solving, teamwork and communications skills, and learning to learn – they are designed to support people to move into higher level jobs with existing employers or be better placed to pursue further training or other employment if their jobs are affected by the changing nature of work or the impacts of COVID-19,” says Pam Ford.

“If you can identify a group of Pacific workers who would benefit from this, and clear them for two hours a week over eight weeks during work time, we can take care of the funding, link you with an experienced education provider and find the right course or courses for your firm and your people.”

Outcomes from the pilot programmes include people setting and reaching goals ranging from stepping into new positions of responsibility with their employers and saving the money for a significant family celebration to using a computer, mouse and internet and enjoying learning for the first time.

Rebecca Phillips, Manager People & Culture at The Comfort Group, says this training gives long-serving staff a chance to learn the core skills that make them future ready and confident to embrace technology improvements the company may implement in the future.

“This not only improves the skill set of our workforce but creates positive change in their personal lives too. We are implementing a new time and attendance system this year which will enable electronic submission and processing of leave requests so it is important our staff have the skills and capability to interact with this new technology.

“An engaged, capable and committed worker is worth their weight in gold and partnering with Auckland Unlimited to provide this training for our workers has been positive for everyone involved.” 

Companies interested getting involved can find out more, register their interest and see case studies at

Pacific Aucklanders in the workforce

  • Pacific Aucklanders will be about a third of the region’s working age population by 2050.
  • Nearly 60 per cent of Auckland’s Pacific 99,300-strong workforce is employed in less-skilled jobs, especially vulnerable to the changing nature of work (such as automation and digitisation) and the economic impacts of COVID-19.
  • Median incomes for Pacific people are lower than for the general population. The median personal income for Pacific peoples at Census 2018 was $24,300 (compared to the all-ethnicities median income of $31,800).
  • The impacts of the global pandemic and economic downturn are exacerbating Auckland’s entrenched inequities.
  • Pacific Aucklanders’ labour force participation is 61.7 per cent, compared to 69.3 per cent for all Auckland
  • Post-COVID-19, Pacific young people (15-24yrs) not in education employment or training has risen to 18.4 per cent.
  • In the year to March 2021, the unemployment rate for Pacific peoples was 10.4 per cent (an increase of 2.6 percentage points on the previous year) compared to the all ethnicities rate of 4.7 per cent (which increased 0.4 percentage points on the previous year).

Sources: Census 2018, MBIE, Auckland Council, Auckland Unlimited