- Labour's School Leaver Toolkit:
- Five hours of free professional driving lessons, a free defensive driving course, and free learner's and restricted licence tests for all senior students.
- Options in workplace competency and practical certificates such as first aid, heavy machinery licences, marine licences, pest control licences, hospitality certificates, security qualifications and other vocational certificates.
- Optional courses in budgeting and financial literacy.
- Compulsory civics course on how democracy works for students in Years 11 to 13.
All senior high- school students will be offered free driving lessons and driver's licence tests if Labour wins next month's election.
Labour's new leader Jacinda Ardern says the free lessons would be part of a $50 million-a-year "school leaver's toolkit" that would also include compulsory lessons in "civics" and options in budgeting, work experience and practical certificates such as first aid and hospitality.
She told students at Kelston Girls' College in West Auckland today that the package would make sure all school-leavers were better prepared for work and for adult life.
"Having a driving licence so you can get to work, knowing how to fit into a workplace, knowing how to manage your money, and knowing how to take your place in the community - these are all important skills in adult life," she said.
A study by the Government/Auckland Council Co-Design Lab last year found that 70 per cent of jobs require a driver's licence, but only 23 per cent of 18-24-year-old beneficiaries, and 44 per cent of all jobseeker-work-ready beneficiaries, have a full or restricted licence.
It found that 85 per cent of young drivers aged 16-24 breach their learner or restricted licence conditions, and 40,000 are ticketed for licence breaches every year, but 73 per cent don't pay their fines, making driver licence offences "a primary gateway into the justice system".
There are 4300 criminal convictions and 288 people are jailed for licence breaches each year.
Ardern said Labour would offer all senior high school students five free hours of professional driving lessons, a free defensive driving course, and free testing for their learner and restricted licences before they left school.
Education spokesman Chris Hipkins said five hours would not be enough and parents would need to help out too, but the free lessons would help to motivate students to go for their licences.
"Parents will still continue to offer driving lessons," he said.
"I'm sure that schools will find ways for those kids that don't have parents to do it."
He said the driving lessons, budgeting and financial literacy courses and other parts of the "toolkit" would all be voluntary, but a "civics" course on how democracy works would be compulsory for all senior students, probably in Years 11 to 13.
"We are seeing very low levels of understanding about how the democratic system works, for example how MMP works," he said.
"A lot of the civics education is done earlier in school, and by the time they hit 18 it's a distant memory."
Hipkins said schools should give time to civics, driving lessons and other skills for life even though that meant less time for academic subjects.
"You have to ask what is the point of education for young people?" he said.
"It's to prepare them for life beyond school."
Labour said its driver's licence proposal was based on a pilot with 20 students at Central Hawkes Bay College in Waipukurau funded by the Mayors' Taskforce for Jobs.
Massey University lecturer Dr Peter Rawlins, who evaluated the pilot, said the proportion of young people with driver's licences was declining.
"They are prolonging young adulthood," he said. "They are getting married later, going into permanent employment later, getting driver's licences later."
The cost of driving lessons and licences was often a barrier.
The pilot scheme provided six hours of free driving lessons with professional instructors plus a defensive driving course for those who gained their restricted licences, which cuts six months off the time they have to wait to get their full licences.
Central Hawke's Bay College principal Lance Christiansen said all 20 students in the pilot gained their restricted licences apart from one with medical issues.
He said most of the driving lessons were out of school hours, but some had to be held during school hours for students who lived a long way out of town. Students received credits towards the National Certificate in Educational Achievement (NCEA).
He said schools would find time to run the lessons in school time if Labour introduced the policy generally.
"Schools will make sure that the kids don;t suffer during class time," he said.
"They have a lot of interruptions now with their sport and other activities. I don't see that as being a problem."