Josh Williams, chief executive of the Industry Training Federation, wants what's best for our kids.
Describing himself as the "lobby guy for apprentices", Mr Williams was in Dannevirke to speak at a joint Dannevirke and Pahiatua Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting last Thursday.
With more than 80 attending the meeting, Mr Williams emphasised the need to think more broadly about pathways for our young people so they make a successful transition to the workforce or university.
"It's about their [young people's] educational journey to work," he said. "There are schools and employers doing wonderful things, including in this community, but what are we practising for? We're practising for more academic pursuit, not for life."
Passionate about apprentice training in New Zealand, the day before he spoke in Dannevirke Mr Williams was in Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce's Beehive office to hear what the minister has planned for apprentice training schemes in the Budget.
Budget 2016 will provide $14.4 million over four years for more apprenticeship training, Mr Joyce has announced.
"A strengthening labour market, a rebuilt industry training system and improvements in school achievement are resulting in greater demand for apprenticeships, as young people rightly see them as a great way to get into and stay in a rewarding career," Mr Williams said.
"Last year, the number of new starts for apprenticeships like carpentry, plumbing and electrical engineering were at the highest levels in nearly a decade. There were more than 42,000 people enrolled in apprenticeships and apprenticeship training in 2015. This funding will help support another 5500 apprentices by 2020."
In Dannevirke, Mr Williams said industry and education need to get together to come up with an integrated programme for students to scaffold into work.
"To make pathways into work a reality and to make them really fly, we all need to be involved."
Tararua District mayor Roly Ellis said it was great to have someone like Mr Williams come from Wellington to discuss a vitally important issue for our community.
"A Hawke's Bay-based private training establishment, Workforce Development Ltd with offices and programmes throughout New Zealand, is visiting Tararua to see if it can offer young people who have left school without basic qualifications, courses in employment skills and hospitality and cookery," he said.
"On Wednesday, the chief executive Dr Aaron Shackell-Smith was in town with a colleague having exploratory discussions with Tararua Community Youth Services and Work and Income to see what might be possible.
"They also met with the two high schools and other people working with youth to explore what partnerships might be possible in the future."
Dr Shackell-Smith's colleague, head of school Anne Greenhalgh, was at Thursday's breakfast meeting and Mr Ellis said, if the new courses come off, it will be an excellent opportunity for Tararua.
"This is what the Youth Guarantee and Vocational Pathway programme is all about," Mr Ellis said. "And I look forward to further announcements as things progress. We need kids who come out of school with the right attitude and life skills, otherwise businesses just turn off.
"We need more and more apprentices and I'd like to see more retired people put their hands up to help young people," he said.
Dannevirke businessman Craig Lancaster told the meeting there are jobs out there for young people.
"But we can't employ them because they don't have the skills."
Dawid de Villiers, principal of Dannevirke High School, said Mr Lancaster was generalising.
However, Mr Williams said he was worried about the situation.
"The best thing about NCEA is flexibility and the worst thing is flexibility where anything counts," he said."
Far too many young people are getting through NCEA, but below their functionality for employment.
"There are 1.1 million working age New Zealanders who lack the literacy skills for modern employment."
* Three out of 10 students in New Zealand go to university.
* Two out of 10 of those get their degree.
* Currently 138,000 workplace trainees and apprentices are being supported to learn on the job, using 7 per cent of the tertiary budget.
* In contrast there are 148,000 university students attracting 53 per cent of the tertiary budget, aside from loans and allowances.