Wellington’s knowledge economy an incubator for graduate employability, says report

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Mumbai: Wellington and graduates working in the city are well-positioned to navigate technology-driven upheavals, according to a new report by Victoria University of Wellington researchers.

The It Takes a City to Raise a Graduate report was prepared by Victoria’s Working Capital project and is based on nearly 90 interviews with Wellington managers, human resource specialists and recent graduates at a cross-section of businesses and public sector and not-for-profit organisations.

The interviews, conducted by Victoria students, focused on the impact on employers of radical technological changes in what is being called the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Wellington’s place-based advantages were one of the key themes of the interviews.

The capital is New Zealand’s strongest knowledge economy, says the report, with the youngest average population and highest level of qualifications. It has nearly 50 percent of workers in knowledge-based roles, compared with a national average of 35 percent.

The report highlights Wellington’s compact size and its benefits for networking and communication, including between employers and tertiary institutions such as Victoria. The concentration of high-tech companies in the city has had a snowball effect on talent and opportunities, says the report.

One employer at a post-production company told interviewers “there is a real ecosystem in Wellington around that talent and I think there is a real advantage in having a cluster of businesses which are similar in the talent that they require”.

The city’s strong international workforce, particularly in the IT sector, attracts further international talent, improving Wellington as “the country’s IT capital”, said a corporate employer.

Other key themes of the report include how employers increasingly value workplace diversity and inclusion, and their expectation that job applicants will have general work experience as well as ‘soft’ interpersonal skills to match their ‘hard’ qualification-based ones.

Interviewees frequently expressed interest in connecting with tertiary educators.

“These exploratory interviews emphasise the extent to which educators and employers who are committed to encouraging emerging talent are key contributors towards city-based, knowledge-driven economic development. The phrase ‘it takes a city to raise a graduate’ encapsulates the opportunities and challenges,” says the report.

The report was co-written by Dr Richard Norman, a Senior Lecturer in Victoria’s School of Management, independent social researcher Kate Peters and Victoria PhD candidate Sarah Hendrica Bickerton.

It is the latest in a series of reports Dr Norman has led for the Working Capital project, a cross-sector partnership developed by Victoria and Wellington Regional Council’s economic strategy group to focus on the skills, employment and training issues crucial to the future prosperity of the region.

The report was commissioned by Victoria’s Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Digital Futures), Professor Steven Warburton, who leads research into ‘Spearheading digital futures’ as one of Victoria’s areas of academic distinctiveness.

“The key themes of employability, engagement, inclusion and the place-based advantage of Wellington in fostering graduate outcomes are brought to the fore in this report,” says Professor Warburton. “This important study provides critical insights into the changing nature of the workplace and highlights the major challenges and opportunities that exist for graduates as they enter a strong knowledge economy underpinned by digital technology.”

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