New Zealand First has challenged the Government to adopt its Business Linked Internship Scheme in an attempt to fill Hawke's Bay's need for more horticulture workers.
New Zealand First education spokeswoman Tracey Martin said the crux of the scheme is to ensure that young people are all given an equal chance to gain industry experience without accumulating debt.
"The current system is continuing to reinforce the huge gap between the haves and the have nots. The student debt concept is unsustainable. Lawyers' kids are still becoming lawyers while cleaners' kids are still becoming cleaners," Ms Martin said.
Ms Martin said the current student loan scheme is a "joke" in that not all young people are given an equal chance to succeed.
She said the apprenticeship scheme gives the workforce an opportunity to bridge the gap between seasonal work and jobs with higher incomes.
"One of the challenges for the horticulture industry is that there are pockets of intense work and then gaps of no work. If young people can see that they're not just working for minimum wage but to build their experience for the future then they will do well," Ms Martin said.
She said the scheme would enable small to medium businesses who usually don't have the capacity to employ apprentices to do so.
The businesses involved would be paid by the state to take on young people who would work for the experience in exchange for their time and effort.
Ms Martin said this symbiotic relationship should be "mutually beneficial" to both of the parties involved.
However, the scheme does need to have several conditions met before it can work.
Firstly, the Government must accept New Zealand First's policy of a Universal Student Allowance to support on the job learning (estimated to be between $200 and $250 and assessible to any person no matter their parents' income).
Secondly, since those completing the apprenticeships would be under the supervision of Industry Training Organisations, NZQA needs to accept a clock in/clock out card as an attendance record for the registration of qualifications.
Ms Martin said it's going to take the current government to accept and believe that the state has a role in investing in education.
However, National MP for Tukituki Craig Foss said the Government has taken on that role by investing $13-14 billion in education for not only well performing communities but those that are harder to reach.
He reported that there are currently 42,000 apprenticeships; more than ever before.
Mr Foss referred to Matariki, Hawke's Bay Regional Economic Development Strategy and Action Plan as just one way in which the current government is helping people get into jobs despite their individual barriers.
"We're all trying to create long term jobs around the year," he said.
New Zealand First said the Business Linked Internship Scheme aims to occupy the vacant space identified within a township and surrounding area for the 40 to 70 per cent of young people not directly supported through other community programmes or initiatives.