2020 brought with it many challenges. On a global scale, people and organisations had to adapt, working through adversity to support one another during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Across New Zealand, the effects of lockdowns and restrictions on business operations were acutely felt by industry. But it was great to see so many companies pushing forward, taking a positive approach by upskilling their workforce. Through this period of extraordinary disruption, Competenz placed great importance on supporting our learners and employers with phone, virtual and digital learning tools, and transitioning many learning programmes from manual books to digital platforms. Throughout the year, those efforts were balanced with ensuring our internal team was also supported, professionally and personally.

Competenz staff were able to navigate the world of remote working with efficiency and ease, due to the organisation exploring a more flexible working environment prior to COVID-19. This ‘test run’ meant any issues that arose from working remotely were resolved well before the first lockdown hit, enabling us to provide a seamless transition and a continuous level of service to our employers and learners.

In July 2020, funding from the New Zealand Government - as part of its national budget to assist the education sector - allowed us to support our industries like never before.

As part of the $1.6 billion boost for vocational education, Education Minister Chris Hipkins launched the government’s Targeted Training and Apprenticeship Fund (TTAF) to provide COVID-19 relief and to address skills shortages in growth sectors.

It was announced that the $320 million TTAF funding package would cover fees for all apprenticeships and targeted areas of industry training from 1 July 2020 until 31 December 2022. This free industry training meant that employers didn’t have to compromise when training and retraining employees as they rebuilt their businesses.

Another government initiative, the Technology Access Fund for Learners (TAFL), meant funding was available for apprentices who needed digital devices such as laptops or related products like software, headsets, internet and data, to continue to succeed in their learning during lockdowns. Through this initiative, we were able to support 219 learners with access to technology.

To help our employers navigate their way through these uncertain times, the Competenz team launched an employer-focused campaign, ‘Training through adversity’.

The campaign encouraged industry to keep moving forward despite the uncertainty. It encouraged employers to understand that their people would need to gain new skills in order to adapt in a rapidly changing world. We understood that acquiring new skills in the face of adversity is often seen as a complicated risk and time-consuming proposition, but with access to the new government funding and the Competenz team beside them, we were able to provide assurance they would be well supported throughout the process. (Read more about this campaign on page 28).

The lessons learned from our experiences in 2020 have stood us in great stead and as an organisation, we are very much looking forward to what the coming year brings.