“It is my pleasure to present my third and final report from the chair as we head towards the conclusion of another year of challenge and change for Waikato employers in the engineering sector, as the global and local economy climbs out of the crater left by Covid-19.


There is no instruction manual setting out how to navigate a global pandemic, and whether we agree with all of the decisions taken or not, the impact on the community, including the business community, continues to be significant.  With unemployment at a near all-time low and immigration still in limbo following border restrictions and immigration rule changes, the shortage of skills available for employers remains one of the biggest challenges.


Inflation driving costs and wages up means that employers are paying more for the inputs required to produce their products and services, and so the upward cycle continues.  Someone smarter than me has coined the phrase ‘profitless boom’ to describe the current situation, and it certainly feels like an apt description from my perspective.


The vocational education sector is also going through the most significant change in recent memory, with the amalgamation of the polytechnic structure under a new entity, Te Pūkenga, and the role of Industry Training Organisations being migrated into several new bodies, all of which is intended to deliver better outcomes for both learners and employers.  The scale of the change is massive and it feels like there is still plenty to be done before the change is embedded and the benefits become visible and tangible at the coalface.


Understanding the implications of this change is critical for local industry employers, and WECA has been actively involved in this change process, ensuring we have a seat at the table, and constantly doing our bit to make the voice of employers heard.  Our Manager Mary Jensen has been appointed to the inaugural Hanga-Aro-Rau Workforce Development Council Industry Stakeholder Group, a body established to ensure that the Hanga-Aro-Rau Workforce Development Council is engaged with the industry sector it represents, and to provide feedback to the council on its strategic direction and performance against its objectives.


We also have member representation on the Waikato Regional Skills Leadership Group, previously through Pam Roa (Longveld Ltd) who supported the establishment of this forum, and presently through Melinda Deller (Tira, formerly NDA Engineering Ltd).  On behalf of the industry, we are extremely fortunate that there are such knowledgeable, capable people willing to offer their time to advocate for local employers for the benefit of all industry participants. On behalf of the WECA organisation and those we represent, thank you both very much for your significant contribution.


WECA finances are in good shape, thanks to Mary’s ability to achieve a disproportionate amount of value from a very modest spend.  There are quite a few opportunities to access funding streams to reduce the reliance on member subscriptions and continue to achieve more without increasing our subs, which Mary and the team will continue to pursue vigorously. Thanks again to Michelle Roberts from Stafford Engineering for all her work monitoring the accounts and providing timely advice and input to keep the board informed and on track.


We have achieved a slightly higher level of activity this year than last as the Covid restrictions have reduced, with one of the highlights being the visit to APL Limited’s new premises in Hautapu.  Thanks to APL for hosting and being willing to provide an insight into their recent growth and development, showcasing what can be achieved in our industry and region.  Please contact Mary if your organisation is keen to reciprocate and host a WECA event in 2023, there is substantial value in collaboration and the sharing of ideas and experiences, so I strongly encourage you to consider this opportunity if you can.


Thank you to our sponsors Wintec – Te Pukenga, The University of Waikato, and the Electrical Training Company, your support contributes significantly to the ability of WECA to continue to make a difference in the sector.


Again I would like to acknowledge all the very hard work put in by Mary, Sally, Maddie, Jasmine and the rest of the WECA team this year as things like careers expos started to come back on stream.  Mary’s ability to network and connect with like-minded individuals, and dare I say challenge those who could perhaps be more like-minded, is something to behold.  What Mary has achieved on behalf of WECA and the broader Waikato community is quite incredible, her enthusiasm is undeniable and we are very lucky to have her support.


It has been a privilege and a pleasure to be able to serve on the WECA board for over a decade, and to step into the role of chair of the board for the last three years during a rather interesting period in our history…  It is now time for me to pass the baton on, and in doing so I am very confident that WECA will continue to progress and stay true to the vision of the founding members.  The organisation is in very good hands.


Thank you to my fellow board members, your time and contribution is invaluable to keep the organisation on mission, and the support of the member organisations you represent is very much appreciated.


Finally I wish all WECA members, families and friends a happy and safe festive season, and a prosperous 2023.  Haere ra 😊

Hapaitia te ara tika pumau ai te rangatiratanga mo nga uri whakatipu.
(Foster the pathway of knowledge to strength, independence and growth for future generations.)”

Keith Fraser
WECA Chair