Building the future

How Waihanga Ara Rau is working with the construction & infrastructure sector.

Waihanga Ara Rau, the Construction and Infrastructure Workforce Development Council, is poised to positively impact the construction and infrastructure industries this year. With a pressing need to address skill shortages and grow the workforce’s capability and capacity, the organisation’s role has never been more critical.

Addressing skills shortages

Skills shortages are the most significant constraint on the growth of the construction and infrastructure sector. They lead to fewer houses built, less investment in critical infrastructure such as roads and water, and a slower recovery from natural disasters.

Immigration can help by making it easier to bring in and deploy expertise from overseas, but investing in growing the capacity and capability of New Zealanders is crucial if the industry is to contribute as much as it can to the economy.

The industry invests significant time and money in attracting and training its workforce. The Government invests $350 million annually in education and training for these industries. Unfortunately, when over half of new entrants to the industry drop out within two years, much of this investment is not generating the desired outcomes.

Waihanga Ara Rau works to ensure better returns on the investment in education and training and works closely with industry on the quality and supply of the workforce to help solve its attraction and retention challenges.

Improving quality and national consistency of training

Waihanga Ara Rau holds education providers accountable for meeting the industry’s needs and improving the quality and national consistency of training. Quality assurance activities are carried out independently by Waihanga Ara Rau, separate from organisations that deliver training, and the industry reports growing confidence in the system. By completing over 353 pre-assessment moderations and endorsing over 40 provider programmes in 2023, Waihanga Ara Rau is ensuring a consistent, high-quality standard of education and training.

Collaboration with industry

Waihanga Ara Rau works with industry to develop fit-for-future qualifications, standards, and micro-credentials that support flexible pathways and meet emerging needs. Extensive engagement with industry and key stakeholders, including through Strategic Reference Groups, ensures Waihanga Ara Rau understands what industry needs. In its first two years, Waihanga Ara Rau has built strong relationships with industry, and industry can be confident that its needs are considered when qualification products are updated or created, ensuring graduates gain the skills and knowledge they require to achieve at work.

In 2023, Waihanga Ara Rau developed new micro-credentials in Steel Fixing and Temporary Traffic Management and registered the first skill standard for Manufacturing Flooring Cassettes. Industry experts helped develop these three products, the first credentials for each trade speciality.

Workforce development initiatives

Waihanga Ara Rau developed the workforce data platform, which provides valuable insights and evidence to inform future strategies and decisions. Helping the industry understand trends, future workforce needs, and areas of opportunity leads to informed decision-making and efficient resource allocation.

Waihanga Ara Rau creates workforce development plans for industry sectors in partnership with industry. These plans ensure a proactive approach to workforce development, aligning industry needs with training and education. They help forecast future demand and prepare the workforce accordingly, promoting industry growth and sustainability. These plans are available online at

It includes:

  • Interactive visual dashboards that show the number of employees, businesses, and learners in a sector and their demographic information. It also provides employment, supply-demand, and forecasts for new entrants.
  • Labour and skills challenges
  • Employment and career progression trends
  • Training and programme gaps

Plus, lots more.

Ongoing support for cyclone recovery efforts is a high priority for Waihanga Ara Rau. So far, it has delivered projections of workforce requirements, positioning of entry-level credentials, advice to TEC on funding requirements, and worked in partnership with Te Waihanga, the Infrastructure Commission, on a project that found 12,000 more people are needed. This support ensures that the industry has the necessary workforce and resources to rebuild and recover efficiently, minimising the impact of such events.

Long-term goals and commitment

Waihanga Ara Rau addresses immediate concerns and lays the groundwork for long-term industry sustainability. Its ongoing strategy involves continuously reviewing and adapting qualification products to ensure relevance and timeliness.

Being independent of the providers that deliver training (apprenticeships, etc.) allows Waihanga Ara Rau to focus on longer-term strategies that support industry.

Exploring what skills are needed to meet future workforce requirements, such as sustainability, leadership, and technology evolution, is high on the Waihanga Ara Rau agenda. The organisation also works with industry to increase the number of businesses engaged in formal training and supports workforce retention by developing valuable resources about diversity and inclusion.

A call to action

Chief Executive Philip Aldridge says, “Waihanga Ara Rau is the voice of industry in vocational education. We’re here for industry. We urge more businesses to actively engage in training their people. We know that formal qualifications increase productivity, and we encourage industry feedback to help us ensure that training stays industry-relevant.

“We provide investment advice to the Government to ensure that investment is directed to areas with the highest demand. Our work in 2024 and beyond is pivotal for the industry’s growth and sustainability. We need many more skilled people right now and in the future. Immigration can provide some of the answer, but building a strong pipeline of skilled labour is key.”

Waihanga Ara Rau has a solid commitment to industry and is helping ensure everyone in the sector, including women, iwi, Māori, and Pacific communities, can reach their potential and thrive. With ongoing collaboration and support from all industry stakeholders, the organisation’s success will be collective.