Future of Work Forum focus on SMEs, technological disruption

  • Hon Grant Robertson

The second meeting of the Future of Work Tripartite Forum focussed on how to remove barriers faced by small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and the issue of technological disruption, Finance Minister Grant Robertson says.

The Forum is a partnership between Government, business (represented by Business NZ) and workers (represented by the Council of Trade Unions). It was set up to shape the Government’s work supporting New Zealand workers and businesses to confidently face the rapidly changing nature of work.

Today’s meeting included presentations from McKinsey Senior Partner and Business Advisory Council member Andrew Grant, and NZ Tech CE Graeme Muller on technological disruption in the business sector.

“Globally we are seeing a massive growth in technologies that were once considered science fiction – things like robotic surgery, drones, artificial intelligence, cellular agriculture, inductive transfer and autonomous vehicles. All of these technological changes will make us more productive but they are also having significant impacts on the way we work,” Grant Robertson said.

Council of Trade Unions President Richard Wagstaff said: “A key element of adapting to this change is ensuring that we have the right skills for the future. We need to understand what measures will need to be taken to prevent technological unemployment and the aggravations of serious skills shortages in key industries such as manufacturing.”

The Forum confirmed $250,000 of funding from MBIE would be put towards supporting the initial component of the Skills Shift in Manufacturing Initiative created and led by the NZ Manufacturers Network. This initiative is to identify the skills shifts needed in manufacturing to support the workforce to take on the opportunities of technological change.

The Forum also discussed the impact of the changing nature of work on SMEs. Auckland Chamber of Commerce CEO Michael Barnett gave input on barriers faced by SMEs, some of which are unrecognisable given the changing nature of work.

Business NZ CEO Kirk Hope said: “While a lot of the focus of technological disruption is on the larger businesses driving headline-grabbing changes, businesses of all sizes can drive and benefit from the changing nature of technology and work. It’s vitally important – particularly in New Zealand – that Government, businesses and workers approach this future together.”

The Forum also received presentations from Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods on the Government’s Just Transitions Unit, and from Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway on progress around the High Performance High Engagement initiative.