Funding re-balance essential to training an effective screen workforce

A re-balancing of funding to the informal education and training sector will deliver the industry-specific skills and capabilities required by the above-the-line workforce in our screen sector.

This is a key finding and recommendation of Te Waha o Tāne workforce development plan (WDP) produced by Toi Mai Workforce Development Council for the ‘above-the-line’ screen sector: those in script writing (narrative voice), directing and producing in all screen-based media in Toi Pāho, New Zealand’s broadcast and screen sector.

Engagement with the above-the-line screen sector found two key challenges faced by the workforce:

    1. The formal training and qualification system does not currently meet their needs.
    2. Government funding for vocational education and training (VET) is not directed to where it best meets their needs.

“Successful and sustainable above-the-line careers currently occur beyond the formal education system, with industry valuing experience on actual productions over qualifications,” says Te Tumu o Toi | CEO of Toi Mai, Dr Claire Robinson. “As a result, qualifications and certifications gained through formal training do not relate directly to people’s ability to work in the screen sector.

“Sadly, there is more core government funding going into formal training that leads to screen-aligned qualifications that the industry tells us it does not need, than there is going into domestic screen productions where the most valuable industry training takes place.”

Toi Mai has identified the biggest transformation for the development of the Toi Pāho workforce would be shifting poorly targeted public investment in tertiary screen education and training from the formal education and training system to the industry-delivered, informal training sector.

“This would represent a major disruption to current VET settings. However, a major disruption is required to realise our ambition of a thriving Toi Pāho by 2035,” says Robinson.

Robinson encourages Toi Pāho workforce members and education providers to give feedback on the plan, targeted at those in script writing (narrative voice), directing and producing in all screen-based media.

Toi Mai wishes to thank all stakeholders who have previously contributed their valuable time to help us advance this WDP to the consultation phase.

This WDP will influence the future work of Toi Mai in supporting the sector, following up on its actions and setting targets to develop industry capability.

Feedback on Te Waha o Tāne – Te Kākano WDP is welcome and open until 22 July. For details on the feedback process visit the Toi Pāho webpage.


Key Facts:

  • Toi Mai is one of six Workforce Development Councils established in 2021. The WDCs have a legislative remit to align education and training with industry needs, and to raise the skills and vocational training available to industries.
  • Toi Mai aims to ensure the creative, cultural, recreation and technology sectors in Aotearoa – Ngā Peka o Toi –are supported by a skilled, diverse and thriving workforce.
  • Stakeholder feedback is currently being sought on four new workforce development plans and one industry development plan developed in close collaboration with industry stakeholders.
  • This workforce development plan Te Waha o Tāne – Te Kākano focuses on the above-the-line workforce in screen-based media only – comprising of those in script writing (narrative voice), directing and producing.
  • Above-the-line roles in screen-related industries in Aotearoa totalled about 500 in 2018 of an overall screen sector workforce of 21,000.
  • Toi Pāho overall provides $3.3bn GDP annually, with those in the screen sector providing $210k GDP per FTE compared to $152k for the general economy. The screen sector has enjoyed a growth of 6.38% per annum since 2014 compared to general economy average growth of 0.46%.
  • Despite New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) funding and support being extremely important to the film sector, the NZFC only received $7.39m in Crown revenue in 2023, with an additional $23.68m in Lottery Grants Board revenue. In contrast, about $36m in public funds went through the Tertiary Education Commission in 2023 to education providers delivering screen-aligned qualifications that the industry has advised are not needed.
  • Te Waha o Tāne follows the inaugural Te Wao Nui o Toi WDP published in 2023 for the screen industry of Aotearoa New Zealand. Te Wao Nui o Toi explored the workforce and training needs for below-the-line occupations in screen, including production and post-production crew across TV, film, interactive media and game development.
  • The title of the WDP Te Waha o Tāne means ‘the voice of the forest’ and refers to the need to support a healthy screen eco-system plentiful with all types of native manu (birds), each with their own special characteristics and unique voices.