27 July 2020    New Zealand’s meat processing and exporting industry today welcomed the Government’s campaign Opportunity grows here to encourage more people to work in the primary sector.

“Labour shortages have been an ongoing issue for meat processors and exporters,” says Sirma Karapeeva, chief executive of the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

“Despite a strong commitment to training and employing New Zealanders, meat processors have struggled to fill roles and the sector is approximately 2,000 employees short. This affects the ability to run processing plants to the desired capacity, fully process all products and capture the maximum value for farmers and the country.

“We certainly support this initiative to attract more people to work in our industry, which is playing a critical role in New Zealand’s economic recovery following the COVID-19 crisis.

“As the country’s second largest export industry, we have shown our resilience and agility by continuing to produce and export food to our 120 global markets during this challenging time, while providing safe employment for over 25,000 people, predominantly in regional communities across New Zealand.

“It is a productive, innovative and progressive industry, offering stable employment, competitive wages and strong career pathways.”

There is a vast array of jobs available, ranging from processing, engineering, trades, sales and marketing or human resources, to distribution, animal welfare and many scientific and environmental roles, says Ms Karapeeva.

“The industry also offers entry level roles for those without any formal qualifications or experience as well as for those who have undertaken Primary ITO training or tertiary and post-graduate study.

“Staff can progress over time from entry level to more senior and management roles if they choose and will be supported by practical on the job training. The industry is one of the biggest trainers of New Zealand workers, with approximately 6,000 people undergoing NZQA accredited courses annually.”

The industry is urging the Government to further extend the time that skilled migrant workers are permitted to work in New Zealand.

“Skilled migrant workers are important to maintaining certainty of production and employing more New Zealanders.

“While there will be an even stronger focus by processing and exporting companies on hiring domestically over the coming years, it is likely the industry will still need to bring in specialist skills from overseas, such as Muslim Halal processing people.

“We hope it will be possible to continue to progress discussions with the Government on a streamlined process for these workers so we can have certainty in this area.”

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