Workforce solutions: Competenz and Real Journeys

03 May 2018

Leading New Zealand tourism company Real Journeys has teamed up with Competenz to solve an industry-wide shortage of qualified skippers and create career pathways for maritime crew.

With a staff of 550 in the peak of summer, the organisation runs tourism operations in some of New Zealand’s prime locations including Queenstown, Milford Sound and Stewart Island. 

“Whether you are here for a season or a whether you are here for a career, it’s pretty awesome that you can leave Real Journeys with your CV looking a little better,” says Ashleigh Calder, People and Performance Manager.

A few years ago the company faced a looming problem that many Kiwi industries share – an aging workforce.  

“We had a number of launch masters who were going to reach retirement age within the next five years,” Calder says. “They had all of this industry knowledge they were using to train the younger guys and we didn’t want to lose their experience, their stories and IP. We started talking with Competenz about how we could capture all of that knowledge and create a qualification pathway.”

Over a three-month period, Competenz staff spent time at Real Journeys speaking to employees at every level to understand the existing workplace training systems, future training needs and any pain points.

Qualification pathways were designed to recognise the skills of current employees and to train new employees in the future. It was at times a complex process to ensure the qualifications met both NZQA and Maritime New Zealand requirements.

“When we first engaged with Competenz we got really excited about the way they operated – communicating often and breaking down barriers wherever there were any. It was a truly collaborative process and they really understood the connection with what happens on the ground.”

In 2017, 39 employees completed the Level 2 qualification and this year a further 50 are expected to complete. A number of those who qualified last year will go on to complete a Level 3 qualification in 2018.

“We already had high levels of competency at Real Journeys but I think it’s become more consistent across the board. Now a crew member working in Stewart Island on the Foveaux Strait is working through the same training as a crew member in Milford Sound. We have a vibrant workforce and we love their differences and diversity, and now we have something to keep base messaging consistent.”

It’s an award-winning initiative – in August 2017, Real Journeys won the Tomorrow’s Workforce Award and the Supreme Award at the Diversity Awards NZ, which champion diversity in the workplace.

With the maritime qualifications now embedded in the business, Real Journeys is looking at introducing qualification pathways in other areas of the organisation.

Calder has advice for other organisations thinking about working with Competenz.

“Think as far outside of the box as you can and Competenz will do what they can to accommodate you. Don’t hold back in asking for things that will make your life easier just because that’s potentially not what’s been done in the past, or not how it’s been done elsewhere.

“You’ve got the opportunity with Competenz to be really creative and push the boundaries. Working so collaboratively you can create some really cool solutions that work for your business so the sky’s the limit.”

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