Industry groups welcome revamp of apprenticeship scheme

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 05:00 26/01/2013

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Prime Minister John Key outlined a new combined apprenticeship scheme during his state-of-the-nation speech at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland yesterday.

Ten thousand apprentices of any age will be given up to $2000 towards tools and course costs, as the Government kick-starts moves to streamline apprenticeships and boost numbers in training. It aimed to help 14,000 extra people into jobs over the next five years.

BusinessNZ chief Phil O'Reilly said the scheme would help get more people into needed skill areas, with incentive payments for priority construction trades helpful for the Christchurch rebuild.

"It will be important for these changes in apprenticeships to be executed well," O'Reilly said.

"Employers want quality apprenticeship training. Allowing employers to get direct access to industry training funding to organise their apprenticeships, if desired, will bring competitive pressures on industry training organisations to help build on their higher performance in recent months.

"It will be important that government agencies and ITOs [industry training organisations] work together with industry to ensure that these changes do enhance the value of training for employers and employees."

Labour leader David Shearer said modern apprenticeships had declined by 20 per cent under National.

"The Government has sat back and watched trades training wither at a time of growing unemployment and in the face of the desperate need for skilled workers for the Christchurch rebuild.

"Any move to increase the number of apprenticeships is welcome, but this is too little too late.

"The lack of apprenticeships is a direct result of four years of inaction from John Key and National," he said.

However, industry and training groups welcomed the plan. Industry Training Federation chief executive Mark Oldershaw said the news was largely positive.

"We particularly welcome the news that there will be no differentiation between support available to apprentices based on their age. This will give opportunities to second-chance learners and give more flexibility to employers."

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions secretary Peter Conway said the changes were a good start, but would not fix the "jobs crisis".

"We have 175,000 people unemployed, 294,900 jobless and over 113,000 people looking for more hours at work. This means we have 400,000 people out of work or looking for more work. This is a national crisis . . . We do need more training, but need to make sure there are decent jobs there for people or else they will continue to move to Australia.

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"The Government needs to focus on job creation. They could review procurement policies so New Zealand firms get a fair chance to bid for major manufacturing projects to create jobs here, for example."

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said people would be underwhelmed by Mr Key's "excuse-making and visionless" speech.

"Four years ago, Mr Key was promising a brighter future. Today, he's making faded old excuses and defending his failure on jobs," Ms Turei said. "Blaming his failure on jobs and the economy on the previous government just doesn't cut it after four years."

- BusinessDay

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