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Strengthening digital skills for NZ manufacturers

8 February 2022

Low levels of digital literacy among staff is a challenge facing many manufacturing businesses, and strengthening those skills is not only essential to meet rapid technological changes in the workplace, it’s vital to increasing productivity.

Digital literacy encompasses numeracy, literacy and computer skills. Across the manufacturing sector, digital literacy has been identified as the most pressing skills gap due to the technological changes required to remain competitive. To improve the level of digital literacy and to begin to meet the demands brought about by Industry 4.0, Competenz has developed a new micro-credential specifically for New Zealand’s manufacturing industry.

“As technology progresses and we move further into Industry 4.0, workers must be upskilled to keep pace with new systems and processes, especially older employees who are not digital natives, but who have invaluable experience in their fields,” says Competenz Sector Manager Jahn Vannisselroy.

“One of the key benefits of Industry 4.0 in manufacturing is improved quality and productivity. This is achieved by digitally networking as many parts of the manufacturing processes as possible; from ordering to dispatch and including the upstream supply chain and real-time production. This new micro-credential programme will give workers the essential skills required to confidently use digital technology in a manufacturing workplace.”

In 2020, the micro-credential programme was piloted at Auckland precision electromagnet manufacturer Buckley Systems. It was launched to the wider industry. The pilot programme involved ten trainees, all of whom are highly skilled but lacked in digital knowledge and confidence.

“Over nine weeks, the workers improved their skills to the point where productivity increased in the machine shop. What’s more, they expanded their confidence in using their knowledge enabling them to transfer their skills to other aspects of their life,” says Buckley Systems chief people officer Dion Orbell.

“You can just tell they are so much more engaged to use digital now than they were at the beginning. We did not want to let go of these craftsmen. We want to continue to grow them because, without them, we can’t continue to grow our business.”

Buckleys CNC Programming Machinist David Treeby says the course was great and done at a pace “where you learned a subject before moving on to a new one, ensuring everyone kept up. We learned about flowcharts, spreadsheets and other applications. Businesses keep moving and technology keeps moving all the time so you need to learn everything you can about digital literacy. It also applies in everyday life and it’s an important skill for everyone at any age – you can’t get left behind,” Treeby says.

The micro-credential is fully funded under the government’s Targeted Training and Apprenticeship Fund (TTAF) for employers who enrol their staff before 31 December 2022.

To learn more about this micro-credential or register your interest, click here.

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