National temporarily stirs from slumber on apprenticeships

One announcement from an under pressure government does not make up for four years of inaction on apprenticeships and skills and training, says Grant Robertson.

“National has finally worked out that youth unemployment and the drop in the number of apprentices is a problem.  The thing is it’s a problem of their making.  And the usual National Party tinkering will not solve the problem.

“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%.  The number of industry trainees in the same period dropped by 37%.

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

“The other major announcement today amounts to a re-branding exercise.  National has decided to call almost everyone involved in industry training an “apprentice”.   That will mean there will be a reduction in the subsidy for the young people who are currently covered by the Modern Apprenticeship scheme as that money is spread across all trainees.

“Just sticking a new label on training will not change anything.   What’s needed is a comprehensive approach.  Labour has a proper plan, starting with improved focus on careers advice and access to training in schools, youth transition services, the dole for apprenticeship programme for 18 and 19 year olds and increased places for young people in education and training.

“National has opened up the taxpayer’s cheque book by promising to give incentive payments to the next 10,000 apprentices.   That’s a pretty blunt instrument.  What happens after the first 10,000 people? And what will they do to prevent rorting of the system to get the cash?  Labour’s plan is more sustainable and enduring.

“The announcements today also give a hint that National wants to privatise industry training.  They plan to allow employers direct access to industry training funding.  This has the potential to undermine industry training organisations, and their role in ensuring that training remains high quality and relevant to an industry as a whole.

“Such an approach needs the utmost caution if we are to ensure that standards in our trades are upheld and a flexible and adaptive workforce is maintained.”  Grant Robertson said.