Industry training bodies have labelled plans to allow employers to access government funding to train their own employees as "corporate welfare".
Representatives also told Parliament's education and science committee today they were concerned the amendments in the Industry Training and Apprenticeships Amendment Bill would lead to a more specialised and less transferable work force.
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said the changes were aimed at giving employers more options and putting pressure on industry training organisations to be more effective.
Careerforce chief executive Ray Lind dubbed the proposal to allow employers to apply for funding from the Industry Training Fund "corporate welfare". Under it employers would be paid by the Government to train their own staff.
Without oversight from Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) such as his, it would result in staff receiving training more specific to their employers and having less transferable skills.
"No employer wants to teach their people at their expense a skill that they're not going to use - that's the tension."
A building firm that only built bridges would not teach trainee carpenters how to put a window in, for example, something they would have to learn under current schemes, Lind said.
Mark Oldershaw, of the Industry Training Federation, described the proposal as a "bit of a slap in the face" after the work involved in addressing concerns about the ITOs.
Previously unwieldy and difficult for industry to deal with, the number of ITOs had been slashed from about 35 to 12 and were now more efficient and easier for industry to deal with.
"The fact that we've done all that, we've gone through the pain, we've gone through the efficiency gains, I guess the whole thing's a bit of a slap in the face I have to say," Oldershaw said.
"What essentially the Government is proposing to do is create a whole lot of different ITOs." Industry funding was capped and if employers could tap into it directly it could leave training bodies short, he said.
Kevin Bryant, of the Primary Industry Training Organisation, said smaller businesses could miss out on training opportunities as a result of the changes.
However, Joyce said employers who wanted access to the fund would have to prove the skills they were imparting were transferable.
"The Government's only interested in funding transferable skills ... and we'll support the best training environments for transferable skills and we'll support that in providers and in industry training providers."
It was important to give employers options, he said.
"There's been some employers, not many but some, that find their own ITOs not quite delivering for them and I think this model will give a little bit of competitive innovation to the ITOs to make sure that they're doing a good job. That won't be a bad thing."
Most ITOs were doing a good job "but there's nothing like having alternatives".
He rejected accusations the plans were corporate welfare.
"It's just literally saying that we're prepared to pay for a certain amount of training and the best trainers will get the money."
He did not believe smaller businesses would miss out or that it would make workers less transferable as employers would have to prove the skills were transferable.
"It can't be just for in-house training its got to be transferable qualifications."