Apprentice policy U-turn

WILMA MCCORKINDALE IN DUNEDIN
Last updated 13:17 30/01/2013
Southland Times photo
WILMA MCCORKINDALE/Fairfax NZ
An apprentice builder at work but concerns are being raised about the impact of pending changes to apprenticeships.

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Concerns are being raised about the impact of apprenticeship changes on Dunedin youth.

It was announced last week the Government will combine all industry training under a new Apprenticeship Scheme, maintain the current level of support, and boost funding.

Dunedin South Labour MP Clare Curran said the Government would do it tough trying to regain lost ground, with a slump in the number of local apprenticeships on its watch.

Industry sources in Dunedin, who would not be named because they are involved in contracts, said the Government was not providing enough information to back up its changes.

The sources doubted the financial incentives would boost local numbers. Whether employers employed apprentices or not was about order books being full and work being available.

Ms Curran said the number of modern apprentices enrolled in the Otago region during the past four years told a story, especially in Dunedin.

"The drop in the number of modern apprentices under National has been stark. After the funding from Labour's 2008 Budget ran out, the number of apprenticeships dropped by nearly 20 per cent. In Dunedin it was 26 per cent. The number of industry trainees in the same period dropped by 37 per cent."

"National's hands-off approach has meant that many young people have fallen out of the system. This announcement might help some of them back in, but it is a long way back."

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce announced the new scheme in the past week.

"We expect the changes to the apprenticeship system will drive a higher level of qualification completions in industry training so more workers, especially young people, are equipped with transferable and practical skills they can use throughout their working lives," Joyce said.

"The Government estimates there will be an additional 14,000 new apprentices starting training over the next five years - over and above the 7000 who enrol every year."

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