Industry spotlight on manufacturing, transport and logistics
While manufacturing is the country’s fourth largest employer, growing demand within transport and logistics is creating workforce challenges. Experts say employers need to encourage a greater diversity of candidates into the industry.

The manufacturing, transport and logistics industry plays a vital role in the New Zealand economy.

Manufacturing output contributes to approximately 11% of New Zealand’s GDP and employs around 240,000 people. Mike Davies, Managing Director of recruitment firm Adecco, says demand in key areas of manufacturing, such as food, remains solid. “There has been a lot of talk about automation, but I don’t think plants are in a position to bring in a whole lot of robots,” says Davies. “We certainly haven’t seen a downturn in the requirement for people in the past five years.”

Employment trends

The latest data from SEEK Employment Trends shows job ads across key areas of manufacturing have increased year-on-year. Assembly and process work increased by 43% while job ads for machine operators grew by 24% and quality assurance and control was up by 17%.

New Zealand’s construction industry is another high-performing sector in the country’s economy, however Davies says it is placing pressure of transport and logistics. “The amount of infrastructure work in Auckland alone is huge, but there is construction activity right across the country,” he says. “There are roads being built, more hotels to support growth in tourism, even the residential sector is growing. This all leads to high demand for trucks and for logistics services.”

This is supported by the latest data from SEEK Employment Trends, which shows ads for road transport were up by 25% year-on-year in April, while rail and maritime transport was up by 38%.

Attracting a diversity of talent

The ageing population is having an impact on the transport and logistics workforce. “You don’t see a lot of younger people driving trucks in New Zealand,” says Davies.

The average age of truck drivers in New Zealand is 53 years and Davies says the transport industry faces challenges in recruiting younger drivers. “Over the past 10 or 15 years, there has been a focus on encouraging young people to go to university or to get a trade. There are huge opportunities in the transport industry and the money can be good, but there is a shortage of talent. We struggle to find good drivers as Class 1, which is a standard, non-restricted motor vehicle license. It gets harder as we progress up the licensing chain to Class 5. It would also help if more companies looked at a more diverse pool of talent.”

Of the 23,000 heavy haul truck drivers in New Zealand, only 3% are women. “On the whole, there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be more women in the industry,” says Davies.

Addressing the challenges

Linfox is one company focused on attracting a diversity of talent – both in terms of age and gender. Linfox Logistics employs 6,500 people across New Zealand and Australia and has operations across 10 countries with a presence in industries such as retail, government and defence and fast-moving consumer goods.

Rob Volarich, Group Manager Recruitment and Workforce Planning at Linfox, says training opportunities are an important way of bringing younger drivers into the business. “The ageing workforce presents a challenge for the entire industry,” he says. “Having our own internal recruitment and training functions allows Linfox to employ drivers who may have less experience but are willing to be trained and mentored. We invest in our people through training and development and we have a strong employment brand.”

Volarich adds that increasing the company’s focus on workplace diversity is helping to address the challenge. “Diversity in general is important to Linfox, across both gender and cultures,” he says. “We have many women working in operational roles throughout the organisation and are also proud of the number women who occupy senior roles within the business. We are currently working on a strategy that will attract women into more traditional supply chain roles, such as driving and warehousing roles.”

In addition to advertising roles on SEEK, Volarich explains the company provides career progression opportunities by advertising roles internally. “Our latest round of senior leadership announcements all related to internal candidates who have come up through the company,” he says.

Volarich says the Linfox recruitment team also attends trade shows where driver participation rates are expected to be high. He adds that talent pipelining, which involves building long-term professional relationships with passive talent for future opportunities, is also key to the Linfox recruitment strategy. “Developing relationships with these individuals puts Linfox front of mind when they decide to seek new employment opportunities,” he says.

As New Zealand’s construction boom continues to place demand on transport and logistics, employers may need to work harder to attract new talent to the industry. A broad approach to diversity may be part of the solution.