Opposition leader Phil Goff and tertiary education minister Steven Joyce debated trades and skills during question time in Parliament last week.
Mr Joyce told Parliament the government has increased the output of industry training by 14 percent since 2008.
“That is why we have created 16,500 more full-time places across the tertiary sector since 2008, and that is why we have introduced the Youth Guarantee, which will provide 7,500 places next year. That is why we are establishing 21 trade academies… and that is why we have more than trebled the number of people participating in level 1 and 2 courses with embedded literacy and numeracy in just the last 3 years.”
However Mr Goff disputed this, arguing “Is it not actually true that the number of people in industry-based skills training has dropped by 31,000 under this government’s watch and that the number of apprenticeships has declined, particularly in the area of building and construction, where those skills are desperately needed to rebuild Christchurch?”
Mr Joyce contested that the government is no longer funding imaginary trainees as the previous government did.
“In 2008 more than 96,000 people—in fact, 96,831 people—were listed and were funded by the previous government as being in industry training, where they did not achieve a single credit.”
Mr Goff suggested that Mr Joyce had failed to act on the advice from the Tertiary Education Commission to double the amount of funding going into training building and construction workers, to overcome a massive skills shortage.
Prior to that advice Mr Joyce’s government had cut $145 million out of industry training in this year’s budget.
Mr Joyce responded that Budget 2011 made available $48 million more for industry training and for trades-related training in polytechnics.
“On top of that, we announced $55 million for job opportunities placements with the Ministry of Social Development and employers to subsidise people into industry training for trades-related training… If there is anybody interested in taking up trades training opportunities, there are hundreds and thousands of those available right now for trades training in Christchurch.”
In response to this debate TEU national president Sandra Grey says the bottom line is that during the 1990s the government stripped trades training out of polytechnics in the name of competition, laying the ground for the shortage of skilled tradespeople that the country faces today.
“Whoever is in power needs to understand that trades training and a proper apprenticeship process needs to be planned for and funded properly,” said Dr Grey.