Brian Fallow

The Economics Editor of the NZ Herald

Employers welcome boost to apprenticeships

Govt hopes to grow labour force with 14,000 new trainees in five years

O'Reilly said the increased focus on higher educational content would need to complement, not replace, practical elements of the training. Photo / File
O'Reilly said the increased focus on higher educational content would need to complement, not replace, practical elements of the training. Photo / File

Employers have welcomed Government moves to boost apprenticeship training.

"More overall funding, higher requirements for educational content and financial incentives to enter into apprenticeships are useful changes," said Business New Zealand chief executive Phil O'Reilly.

"Higher incentive payments for priority construction trades will particularly help get the skills needed for the Christchurch rebuild."

The Government's target is to see 14,000 new apprentices start training over the next five years, in addition to the 7000 who now enrol each year.

Outlining the changes in a speech in Auckland yesterday, Prime Minister John Key said the educational content of apprenticeships would be boosted and employers would have options if their industry-training organisations did not preform.

The Government will give the first 10,000 new apprentices who enrol after April 1 $1000 towards their tools and off-job course costs, or $2000 if they are in priority construction trades.

The same amount will also be paid to their employers.

O'Reilly said the increased focus on higher educational content would need to complement, not replace, practical elements of the training.

"Allowing employers to get direct access to industry training funding to organise their apprenticeships if desired will bring competitive pressures on ITOs, and help build on their higher performance in recent months," he said.

Steven Joyce, Minister of Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, said employers or organisations seeking direct access to industry training funding would be subject to similar requirements to those ITOs face, with funding being used for formal industry-training programmes and trainees required to progress towards qualifications.

Age restrictions under the current Modern Apprenticeships scheme, which provides additional support only to apprentices aged 16 to 21 when they start their programmes, will be dropped.

Providing the same level of subsidy to all apprentices, including those outside the Modern Apprenticeships scheme, would increase overall funding for apprenticeships by about 20 per cent, Joyce said.

Higher subsidies will be available for a list of trades in the construction, infrastructure, engineering and electrical sectors. "A large number of apprenticeship-qualified people will be needed in coming years to meet the anticipated labour-force needs for the Christchurch rebuild, on-going infrastructure development and upgrading and increasing the housing stock," he said.

The total cost of the changes is estimated to be $106 million over the next four years. Joyce said Government funding for industry training trebled in the last decade, but value for money had been poor in terms of qualifications completed.

In 2009, more than 100,000 people funded to take part in industry training did not achieve a single credit. Purging the system of "phantom trainees", reducing the number of qualifications offered and putting the emphasis on achievement had freed up significant funding.

- NZ Herald

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