Last week my whānau took our mokopuna to the Powhiri for new students, at his new High school. So I was able to speak to a number of parents who had been thinking about what the future holds for their children. Parents and their tamariki in their last years of high school will be making some important life decisions.
Maybe their child will go into trades training, an apprenticeship or on to study at university they’ll face big fees and living expenses. Training for a career is exciting but the thought of big loans and debt is hardly the stuff of the great Kiwi dream. It makes all those other big life decisions – buying a house, marriage and having children – so much harder.
That’s why New Zealand is experiencing the lowest rates of home ownership since the 1950s. Young Kiwis are coming out of post-school education with an average debt of $20,000 and that takes them nine long years to pay.
The National Government seems hell bent on ignoring the problem. We can’t, which is why Labour’s Working Futures Plan is all about investing in long-term lifetime learning.
We know that in 20 years’ time, 46 per cent of the jobs we do in New Zealand today will be gone due to technology and automation. Workers of all ages will have to train, and retrain, for the jobs of the future.
Our Working Futures Plan will allow any New Zealander, no matter their age, to undertake three free years’ of post school education; provided they’ve never studied past high school before.
It will cover those doing trades training, on-job apprenticeships and higher education. Never before has vocational training been so important.
We’ve taken a sensible and affordable approach to the changing nature of work and the debt which is crippling young Kiwis. Our plan will be phased in over a decade, with the first year free from 2019 at a cost of $265 million. The second year will kick in 2022 and third in 2025.
It is an investment in New Zealand’s future which will cost $1.2 billion when fully implemented. And the money is already there – it is money National has set aside for tax cuts.
Employers have consistently told us the biggest issue they face in growing their businesses and improving productivity is the availability of skilled staff.
We need a skilled workforce with the knowledge to adapt, innovate and grow our economy.
Higher levels of education lead to higher incomes. Higher incomes lead to a higher tax return for the Government. In turn that leads to a stronger economy and an improved standard of living for all New Zealanders. It’s a win, win, win.
As a country we can’t afford not to prepare ourselves and our children for the future.