Future skills

The primary industries are the backbone of New Zealand's economy and our way of life. They bring in billions of dollars every year and make up 1 in every 7 jobs. Find out how the sector will have to adapt to changing needs to continue to thrive.

Building on our good reputation

New Zealand has a strong reputation for exporting high-quality and sustainable foods and fibres. But we must work hard to adapt if we're to maintain that reputation in a fast-changing world.

Some of the factors redefining how primary industries must work include:

  • higher consumer expectations
  • a greater focus on sustainability
  • new technologies
  • an increasingly complex global supply chain.

New Zealand will have to be innovative at every production step if we're going to hold and grow our competitive advantage in the global market.

Future needs

The primary industries and MPI share a common goal to increase export returns by 2025. To help reach that goal we'll need more skilled people in the primary industries.

To see how the primary industry workforce is changing, MPI analysed human capabilities in the primary industries between 2002 and 2016.

In 2019, we published some fact sheets, highlighting statistics about the workforce, including qualification, gender, diversity and retention rates.

Report on the skills we need

In 2018, Te Uru Rākau, the Forest Owners Association, and the Forest Industry Contractors Association surveyed the commercial silviculture and harvesting sector to better understand its labour requirements for 2019, and to gain the industry views of the main reasons for the labour shortages.

An MPI report completed in 2014 also identified the types of skills needed for the primary industries.

Future capability needs for primary industries [PDF, 3.9 MB]

People powered – summary of key findings [PDF, 1.6 MB]

Jobs becoming more specialist

The future of work in the primary industries will be more specialist than it has been in the past, driven by:

  • sophisticated technologies
  • a growing market in Asia
  • critical issues around food safety, biosecurity, sustainability and animal welfare.

Some of the necessary skills for workers in the primary industries will be non-traditional, such as language and cultural understanding.

Primary Industries Skills Leaders Working Group

We need to act now to ensure we have the skills the primary sector needs for the future. To help us do this, MPI has created a Primary Industries Skills Leaders Working Group. This group of industry leaders is helping us formulate a plan of action to attract, train and retain the skilled workforce the primary sector needs.

Role of the group

The Working Group involves a range of individuals from industry bodies and organisations who are using their knowledge and expertise to develop the plan of action by the end of August 2019.

The action plan will cover how best to:

  • attract people to work in the sector
  • ensure we have fit for purpose education, training and development
  • help our primary sector employers to provide lifelong rewarding careers for their employees.

The Working Group is chaired by MPI, who will also provide secretariat support.

Skills Leaders Working Group members

  • Ben Allomes, Hopelands Dairies and Primary Industry Good Employer Award winner
  • Chelsea Millar, Digital communications specialist
  • Lynne Miller, Dairy processing representative
  • Chris Lewis, Federated Farmers, Dairy chairman and employment spokesperson
  • Erin Simpson, Horticulture Capability Group
  • Geoff Taylor, DairyNZ, Associate strategy and investment leader
  • Jeremy Baker, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Chief insight officer
  • Linda Sissons, Primary ITO, Chief executive
  • Mark Paine, Primary Sector Council
  • Michelle Glogau, Growing NZ, Chief executive
  • Miles Anderson, Federated Farmers, Chair (national meat and wool section)
  • Paul Goldstone, Meat Industry Association, Policy manager
  • Penny Nelson, Ministry for Primary Industries, Deputy director-general Policy and Trade (Chair)

Find out more

Teacher resources

MPI publishes or funds teacher resources and classroom activities each year. These focus on the primary industries, biosecurity, and food safety. We put together sets of learning activities that teachers can use for subjects like mathematics, science, social studies, and technology.


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