Key's state of the nation: Apprentices get cash

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 13:04 25/01/2013
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The Prime Minister has announced a new combined apprenticeship scheme, while confirming the Government seeks to go ahead with two partial asset sales this year.

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.

Speaking in his state of the nation speech at the North Harbour Stadium in Albany, John Key said the current modern apprenticeships scheme, available only to 16-21 year olds, along with other schemes, would be combined under a single programme, New Zealand Apprentices.

He estimated the new programme, which would include a special payment for those who applied this year, would increase the number of apprentices by 14,000 over the next five years, compared to previous forecasts.

''These new apprenticeships will provide the same level of support, and the same level of subsidy, for all apprentices, regardless of age.''

Key's speech said the overall level of subsidy funding would be increased by $12 million a year, rising over time as the number of apprentices increased.

The speech did not make it clear whether those already on the modern apprentices scheme would be worse off under the new scheme, with the funding spread more widely with the $12m top-up.

In a bid to increase the profile of apprenticeships, the first 10,000 applicants who enrolled after April 1 would be given $1000 towards tools and off-job course costs, or $2000 if they were in ''priority construction trades''. The scheme would be known as ''re-boot''.

More than 30 apprenticeship schemes, covering construction, infrastructure, engineering and electro-technology would be eligible for the higher subsidy under re-boot.

Industry training organisations would be given clearer performance expectations, while the educational content of apprenticeships would be boosted, Key said this afternoon.

PARTIAL ASSET SALES

As well as pushing ahead with plans to sell up to 49 per cent of Mighty River Power, Key said the Government would push ahead with another sale later in the year.

Late in 2012, Finance Minister Bill English said it was possible there could be three state owned asset sales this year.

"The whole share offer programme will be a shot in the arm for New Zealand’s capital markets," Key said.

"It will give New Zealand savers an opportunity to invest in big New Zealand companies, and the companies themselves will benefit from better monitoring and market disciplines."

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The speech repeated the line that New Zealanders would be "at the front of the queue" for the sales, but it did not spell out what the term meant.

HOUSING AFFORDABILITY

Key signalled the Government would attempt to make developing housing easier by working with councils to make more land available, with ''more streamlined processes and less costly red tape'' but gave no indication that more state houses will be built.

''This doesn't require the Government to spend a lot of money. We are already a huge player in the housing market and I'm very wary of spending more of taxpayers' money.''

Last year the Labour Party signalled it would build 100,000 ''affordable'' homes over a decade if it was in government. This week the Green Party announced a rent-to-buy scheme designed to work with the Labour scheme.

Key said the Government was already building 2000 over the next two financial years, and would focus on improving the process for the private sector.

''There are plenty of private sector investors who want to invest in housing - if only we can remove the roadblocks that are slowing down the process and driving up costs.''

- Stuff

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