The results of the November 2019 Taranaki Business Survey have been released.

Taranaki’s business confidence remains stable, with around half of the region’s enterprises expecting the region’s economy to stay the same over the next year, and equal numbers expecting things to get better and worse.

The results of Venture Taranaki’s latest Taranaki Business Survey, conducted in late November, show the outlook for New Zealand’s economic conditions over the next 12-months has softened slightly from mid-year figures, though the overwhelming sentiment is more of the same.

“Eighteen months ago, we saw the lowest level of confidence in the national outlook since the GFC. That’s been dialled back as the number of businesses anticipating economic conditions to deteriorate has dropped,” says Venture Taranaki Chief Executive Justine Gilliland.
“Outlook is slightly better at industry level, with those expecting improvement outweighing those anticipating things will deteriorate by quite a margin.”
Overall, 45 percent of respondents expected their industry conditions to stay the same, while 32 percent expect improvement and 19 percent expect things to deteriorate.
Over the shorter term, sales outlook is significantly better, with 47 percent expecting sales to improve over the next six months, ahead of 39 percent expecting sales to remain flat, and 9 percent expecting a drop in sales.
“While this is a likely reflection of seasonal forecasting, it represents a very different picture to a year ago, when just 30 percent of businesses expected an improvement in sales,” Justine says.
“We’re seeing some medium and long-term certainty return to the region’s strategic planning horizon. Work programmes such as Tapuae Roa and Taranaki 2050 are helping lift focus beyond short-term impacts of commodity price fluctuations and policy announcements,” Justine said.
The number of businesses expecting to take on more staff in the next six months has remained broadly constant, with 58 percent expecting numbers to remain constant and 29 percent expecting staff growth.
“The availability and cost of labour remain amongst the biggest concerns for business, alongside the prices of petrol and electricity. Over a third of the region’s businesses report trouble finding the skilled staff they need, and this shortage is spreading across a wider range of sectors and pay scales,” Justine said.
“Respondents are seeking skilled people with the right attitude across the hospitality, agricultural, teaching, trades, engineering, oil and gas, and professional services sectors. It’s felt that attracting good staff, particularly those at senior levels or with specialist skillsets, is becoming increasingly difficult at regional and even national level.”
Skills and talent attraction
Related to the challenges identified in finding skilled staff, this edition of the Taranaki Business Survey also polled respondents on their activities and successes in attracting staff and workforce planning.
“Noting that skills consistently feature as a challenge facing our region’s enterprises, we took the opportunity to ask what work was being done to address this issue,” said Dr Anne Probert, Venture Taranaki’s General Manager Regional Strategy and Sectors.
“We sought to gain a greater understanding of the planning horizon for workforce development, where people were looking for new staff, and what activities were proving successful in meeting skills demand. This will help us shape attraction activity and workforce strategy at a regional level to support our enterprises and industries,” Anne said.
Survey questions found that more than half of all respondents expect staff numbers to increase over the next two years, while 35 expect things to stay the same. Furthermore, over 25 percent anticipated their talent needs and challenges will change.
“A range of factors are expected to have an impact on the regional jobs landscape, including increasing use of technology and automation, changing demographics, shifts in supply and demand, and changes in international markets,” Anne said.
“Gaps in the region’s talent development were identified across many sectors, spanning both hard skillsets such as trades, engineering and hospitality, and softer skills such as innovation, leadership and craftsmanship.”
A quarter of businesses didn’t plan ahead for their workforce needs, instead responding to needs as they came up, while 43 percent plan the year ahead, and 31 percent plan for the longer term, beyond a year.
Almost 20 percent of the region’s businesses have fluctuations in their total staff levels, with most following seasonal peaks across retail, tourism and hospitality, and the dairy and agricultural sectors. Almost 40 percent of businesses found it challenging to find staff at peak times.
Almost half of businesses stated they have recruited new staff from outside the region in the last five years, with almost 5 percent finding all their new hires outside Taranaki. Almost a quarter had recruited internationally.
When it came to sharing ideas and successes in attracting and retaining staff, the region’s enterprises pointed to a range of initiatives to help open pathways from education to employment, including apprenticeships, partnerships with tertiary providers, and tasters for secondary students, while cadetships, opportunities to try jobs or businesses, and collaborations between industries to bring expertise to the region were also highlighted.
“Addressing Taranaki’s current and future skills needs is critical to the region’s sustained momentum,” Justine said.

“Ensuring we can attract, train and retain the people we need for our region, our industries, and our enterprises – both now and in the future - will require a sustained and strategic approach, with ideas and effort from across the region.”
“This research is a valuable insight into the challenge our region’s businesses are facing, and alongside MBIE’s quarterly labour market report – to be released later this week – will help inform the work programmes of Venture Taranaki, our stakeholders, and those in the position of finding and keeping good talent in our region. Our increased focus on talent at VT is one step towards helping this.”