Education is a crucial part of building a faster-growing and more competitive economy in this country, writes Bill English (National) in From the Beehive.
OPINION: In line with this, the Government's focus is on boosting the number of young people in apprenticeships.
You may have heard about this initiative, announced recently by the prime minister.
The aim is to combine all apprenticeships into a single nationwide scheme and provide new financial incentives for employers and workers to take up more apprenticeships.
It's an exciting programme and it could have real spinoffs for young people in places like Southland.
There will be big opportunities over the next few years to train more New Zealanders in vocational careers which will set them up for their working lives.
We expect the changes to the apprenticeship system will drive a higher level of qualification completions in industry training.
This means more workers, especially young people, will be equipped with transferable and practical skills that they can use to get themselves, and the country, ahead.
The Government estimates this revamp will see an additional 14,000 new apprentices starting training over the next five years - that's going to change a huge number of lives and it's going to benefit many regional economies.
But we're not just going to push people through to make up the numbers. Quality control will be paramount because we want this investment to be well spent and these young people to get real skills, not just pieces of paper.
While we now have performance expectations of industry training for the first time, those expectations are still quite low.
More emphasis will now be placed on completing qualifications, particularly for apprentices. To improve educational quality, NZQA will have a greater role in quality assurance and recognition of ITOs.
A wide range of trades, like construction, including carpentry, painting and gas fitting; infrastructure, like road and bridge construction; engineering, including boiler making, diesel fitting and fabrication and electro-technology, including electricity supply and refrigeration, will be eligible.
There's never been a better time for young people, and those already in work, to consider up-skilling and gaining trade qualifications.
The apprenticeships initiative kicks off in April this year.
» Bill English is the electorate MP for Clutha-Southland.
- The Southland Times
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