Young people not achieving potential - MP

ADAM ROBERTS
Last updated 13:00 21/02/2013

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Times are tough for the Nelson region's young people, with a rising proportion on the unemployment benefit and students at the local polytechnic struggling to afford the basics - with one student even sleeping in a tent.

Labour Party deputy leader and spokesman for tertiary education, skills and training Grant Robertson was in Nelson yesterday as part of a tour of the country's polytechnics.

He met with Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology student president Scott Tambisari to discuss issues relating to students and the polytech.

Earlier in the week, Labour said figures from the Ministry of Social Development showed a widespread increase in the number of young people claiming the unemployment benefit since 2008, with Nelson, Marlborough and the West Coast among the regions suffering the most.

In December, 30.1 per cent of people aged 18-24 were on the unemployment benefit, up 6.38 per cent from September, according to the figures quoted.

Mr Robertson said the numbers were a catastrophe for New Zealand, and represented people slipping out of the system and not achieving their potential.

Mr Tambisari said the NMIT student association was handing out food parcels "hand over fist", with many students struggling to find work or afford the basics.

In one student advocacy case, a student had been sleeping in a tent, which raised all sorts of issues around her health and the quality of her learning, he said.

"What's the impact on her? It's shocking."

Mr Robertson said more hands-on policies were needed.

It was a shame that funding for aviation, a popular NMIT course, had been cut, he said. Polytechnics should be allowed to play to their strengths.

Mr Robertson applauded the Government for its recently announced revamp of the apprenticeship scheme, with financial incentives for employers and workers to participate.

But he said this came after four years of inaction following Labour's emphasis on apprenticeships, and this had resulted in a 20 per cent drop in apprenticeships.

He was also concerned that funding for the scheme would come from elsewhere in the tertiary education budget.

Mr Robertson said it was important that polytechs had strong student associations, at a time when the student experience had been put at risk.

NMIT had done well to keep its student association following the introduction of voluntary membership last year, but other polytechs had suffered without representation, he said.

Mr Tambisari said the NMIT association had termed its own membership "complimentary", with people able to opt out if they wished. So far, he knew of just one student who had done so.

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- The Nelson Mail

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