Comment: Collaboration at the heart of business success
In the production horticulture industry where skilled and knowledgeable staff are absolutely vital to a productive and profitable business, collaboration holds the key to success according to Horticulture New Zealand business manager Sue Pickering. “People are so important in our industry,” says Sue, who’s been at HortNZ since its inception in 2006 after starting her career in the early 90s at the New Zealand Fruitgrowers Federation. “Often the largest bill in organisations is the wages bill. We’re a labour intensive industry that’s heavily reliant on having the right staff with the right skills – capable and motivated. In the past we haven’t focused enough on people capability but the time is now. The merger between AgITO and Hort ITO to form Primary ITO has resulted in our industry training organisation boasting a larger mass, shared resources and a renewed approach. This means there’s a platform of opportunity available. Let’s grasp it with both hands.” “As well as the development of current employees and employers, we must attract people to our sector.We need clear career pathways and development opportunities to ensure production horticulture is an attractive choice for young people and in fact, people of all ages.”
The job is huge but Sue believes the answer lies in collaboration and working together with organisations who share visions and goals and an obvious choice in the area of work-based training is the Primary ITO. “HortNZ and our other industry organisations share common goals with Primary ITO who want to increase the number of people in our industry gaining skills, in turn enhancing the quality of staff and therefore the performance of the business. The industry realises this is vital to success.The statistics show we have a low number of people involved in formal training. There are approximately 641 enrolled in vegetable and fruit production qualifications through Primary ITO which is low in terms of numbers in the industry.”
“I think we’re at a point where the industry recognise there’s a skills gap and something must be done.” In terms of mechanisms to leverage collaboration, Primary ITO’s Industry Partnerships (IPGs) sit at the heart of this approach. When the new ITO came into fruition it provided the opportunity to review the organisation’s governance structure. So a new constitution is being adopted to ensure the many industries the organisation is serving are well represented, from vegetable production to viticulture to fruit production.
The core function of the IPGs is to ensure industry training requirements are heard and met by the ITO. A representative from each IPG also sits on a Stakeholder Council (which connects in directly with the ITO Board). The focus of each IPG is the training needs of their industry. “The key to our ongoing success is working alongside well-connected industry
people to deliver on our mandate,” says Kevin Bryant, Primary ITO Chief Executive.
“The thing with collaboration is that it’s not always easy, you have to share a bit of turf and give up things for the greater good.”
“Members belong to IPG’s to represent their industry needs, such as providing consultation on product and qualifications development and on helping the ITO understand current and future training needs in the sector the IPG represents,” Mr Bryant says.
Sue is proud to be the Chair of the ‘Vegetable and other Fruit’ IPG. “There are some leading players getting involved with the IPGs and to work with those directly in the business such as Richard Burke, CE of Leaderbrand, and Nick Taylor, Potato grower, Helen Ewan, Turners and Growers and Jan Bott from AS Wilcox & Sons is a great privilege and key to success.”
In terms of other IPG groups representing the horticulture sector there’s a Pipfruit IPG, Kiwifruit and Avocado IPG, Nursery Production IPG, Amenity Horticulture IPG and a Wine and a Viticulture IPG. There are no limits to the number of IPGs, but member numbers of each IPG are limited to 15 representatives. New industries, with the approval of the board, are able to join and form their own IPG and share equal rights and benefits with others “The ITO and industry have been working very hard to get these groups going and ensuring the industry voice is heard,” says Sue. She believes IPGs “help us get to get to the nitty gritty of what we need in our training through the ITO. It provides the opportunity to discuss openly and frankly what’s going well and what’s not going well.”
The first ‘Vegetable and Other Fruit’ IPG meeting took place recently and included Primary ITO Chief Executive, Kevin Bryant. “We had open dialogue. There’s a concerted effort on both sides and we’re looking for solutions. We’ve got actions on the table now. One of our key focuses is developing the business management skillset of our managers and business owners from Level 4 and above.We must ensure we have well performing leaders and managers in our industry to ensure our grower businesses are productive and profitable. The National Diploma in Agribusiness Management in rolling out to the horticulture sector so this is a fantastic step in the right direction,” Sue says.
“Members of our IPG are also excited about TRoQ (Targeted Review of Qualifications),” Sue continues.
The Targeted Review of Qualification is a nation-wide process instigated by New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). The rationale behind this is simplification of the qualification framework to ensure there are no duplicate or overlapping qualifications, and also a drive to rationalise the number of qualifications listed on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework.
Sue is also a member of the TRoQ Governance Group putting forward the industry perspective.
“In horticulture there are currently up to 115 qualifications which is absolutely confusing for our employers and employees. After many years of advocacy on the part of HortNZ and other industry organisations NZQA have stepped up and are reviewing all the qualifications, including horticulture. This is a great thing and it’s had industry buy-in and input from the start. A key aim is that TrOq will result in a system that’s much easier to understand for our employers and employees.”
“The beauty of TrOq is that it started the right way with looking at what specific jobs there are in our businesses and then the skills required. So it started with the jobs – rather than the end qualification.” “The first phase has occurred, we have submitted to NZQA and we’re now waiting to hear where they’re got to from there.We’ve got a great basis to work from and it’s an exciting time.”
In terms of a collaborative approach, Sue points out that it’s not just about collaboration with Primary ITO, but with a range of other organisations too. “The thing with collaboration is that it’s not always easy, you have to share a bit of turf and give up things for the greater good. At the end of the day we get out what we put in so industry and business have to be proactive to take best advantage of this opportunity. I’m a true believer in a partnership approach – if there is a common goal and both parties are willing. There is no point in re-inventing the wheel and in this industry we have lots of challenges to contend with such as the weather, a perishable product and challenging markets. So anything that can bring together organisations with shared goals to balance out the load is a worthwhile, exciting and smart way to work.”