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Apprenticeship overhaul 'too little, too late'

Published: 4:17PM Friday January 25, 2013 Source: ONE News

Labour is slamming the Government's apprenticeship initiative as "too little too late."

"Modern apprenticeships have declined by 20% under National. The Government has sat back and watched trades-training wither at a time of growing unemployment and in the face of the desperate need for skilled workers for the Christchurch rebuild," Labour leader David Shearer says.

"Any move to increase the number of apprenticeships is welcome, but this is too little too late. The lack of apprenticeships is a direct result of four years of inaction from John Key and National," he says.

Prime Minister John Key announced the initiative today , which will see 10,000 apprentices be given a helping hand to pay for course costs and tools.

An extra $12 million of funding will be also be provided to boost apprenticeship subsidies in the first year and Key said this figure will increase over time.

However Labour is questioning whether the Government is using smoke and mirrors to artificially inflate its claim of an extra 14,000 apprenticeships over five years.

"National is desperately trying to rebrand and redefine apprenticeships, so that the programme will include other existing forms of industry training. That's a cute trick, but won't necessarily mean more people are getting trained," says Shearer.

" Visionless"

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says Key's speech today was visionless and will leave New Zealanders underwhelmed.

"For four years, John Key has let the number of young people in modern apprenticeships fall and let the industries that employ apprenticeships decline. Today's announcement is too little, too late," says Turei.

"Since the first earthquake, the Greens have been saying that we will need to train more construction and building workers. For two years, National did nothing.

"Ten thousand New Zealanders with the specialist skills we need to rebuild Christchurch left our country in that time," she says.

"It's good that National has finally realised its mistake, but New Zealand needs a much more comprehensive vision to put a dent in the fundamental problems facing our country."

However Key says the irony is, the opposition parties have opposed every hands-on change the Government makes to encourage investment, growth and jobs.

Key says they have opposed tax changes, roading projects, RMA changes, new employment and welfare laws, the national convention centre, and oil and gas exploration.

" Good start, more needed"

The Council of Trade Unions says the apprenticeship scheme is a good start.

"Supporting 14,000 people into apprenticeships over five years, for all ages is a good start, but is a drop in the bucket and won't solve our jobs crisis," says Peter Conway, CTU Secretary.

Conway says it's vital the Government "reinvest significantly to up-skill the workforce and support workers getting training opportunities."

"We currently have 175,000 people unemployed, 294,900 jobless and over 113,000 people looking for more hours at work. This means that we have 400,000 people out of work or looking for more work, this is a national crisis and 14,000 apprenticeships over five years is not enough," he says.

Ruma Karaitiana of the Building & Construction Industry Training Organisation agrees the investment is needed, but is overdue.

"It is late because we've got the demand right now, people we need today needed to be in training three years ago, that wasn't possible because of the recession, so this is a great help right now," he says.

"We desperately need as many people as we can get right now and the demand will stay for quite some time, Christchurch is predicted to be at peak demand for at least ten years."

Meanwhile, Shearer will announce Labour's version of the state of the nation later this weekend.