It's mid-winter and the normal expectation is that things would slow down, but this month has, in fact, been another busy one at the Foundation, with a focus on getting out to the regions of New Zealand. The regions are often engaging directly with Asia, especially when it comes to business and inward tourism and its useful to hear what's top of mind outside of the main centres.
Dunedin Chinese Garden
Otago Chamber of Commerce discusses the need for an Asia-ready workforce
I was in Dunedin earlier in the month to speak at a luncheon hosted by the Otago Chamber of Commerce. The focus was on the need for New Zealand to have an ‘Asia-ready’ workforce.
We discussed the latest findings from our Perceptions of Asia research and the role of the Foundation — who we are and what we are doing to equip New Zealanders so they can thrive in and with Asia.
The audience, which included Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, was predominantly from the business community — a sector of New Zealand society that needs to play a leading role in ensuring New Zealand makes the most of the opportunities provided by Asia’s growing relevance.
Like us at the Foundation, the Dunedin business community present were surprised that the Perceptions of Asia research indicated only eight percent of senior secondary school students in New Zealand are ‘Asia-ready’*; and less than four in ten students thought having ‘Asia capability’ would be useful in their working lives.
We asked why this information received a muted response from the wider business community. This was quite puzzling for us at the Foundation given businesses are increasingly needing staff with Asia-relevant knowledge and skills. I encouraged the business community in Otago to let their voices be heard. If businesses need an ‘Asia-ready’ workforce, then businesses have to speak up.
Entrepreneurs visit Taranaki to share ideas about breaking into Asia
Last week, I joined 11 leading Kiwi entrepreneurs who are part of our ASEAN Young Business Leaders Initiative (YBLI) entrepreneurship programme in Taranaki for our Tasty Business event. It’s easy to feel old when you are with a group of such inspiring and high-achieving young New Zealanders.
The Tasty Business event allowed former participants in the Foundation's entrepreneurship programme to share ideas with each other and local business owners
In the past couple of years, we have taken more than 30 New Zealand entrepreneurs to Southeast Asia to help grow their knowledge and connections in the region. It is exciting to see the strong business outcomes that are resulting from this programme.
We brought them together in part to reconnect them but also for them to share their successes and struggles of entering the Asian market. The day also included visits to local businesses already engaged with Asia, which provided learning opportunities for both the business owners and the visiting group.
To finish the day, the Foundation hosted a reception, co-organised with Venture Taranaki and Nick Carey, founder of Taranaki-based Green Meadows Beef and one of the members of our YBLI entrepreneurship programme. The highlight of the evening was having three of our inspiring young food and beverage entrepreneurs share some of their best and worst experiences with an enthusiastic group of Taranaki business people.
One of the messages I heard repeatedly during the day was that the number one rule for business success is ‘know your customer’. Get that wrong and you are doomed.
It seems self-evident that as Asia is increasingly becoming ‘the customer’, it will not only be nice but indeed necessary for New Zealand businesses to know more about Asia and Asian people.
Business internship programme continues to expand
The Foundation's business internship programme continues to go from strength to strength
The business internship programme continues apace with over 20 internships now on offer in seven Asian countries.
We have several business internships currently open; these are in Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and China. One of the things our research has highlighted is that experience of Asia is very important in learning about Asia. These internships provide first-hand experiences for young people with an interest in Asia to not only build their CV but also to build their Asia capability. You can visit our website for more details about our business internship programme.
Finally, with the resignation of our education director, I have asked our current Educators Network manager Sean O’Connor to fill the role of acting education director until the end of the year.
Also, in light of some retirements and expansion we are currently advertising for an arts programme manager and a senior advisor for our research programme.
I hope you have a great month and look forward to updating you on the Foundation's many and varied activities in next month's newsletter.
* Our Asia-readiness framework is as much about having a willingness and interest in engaging with Asia as it is about having knowledge of Asia and the ability to communicate using an Asian language.