May 15, 2020

Jobs budget to support training and develop skills

$1.6 billion Trades and Apprenticeships Training Package will provide opportunities for New Zealanders of all ages to receive trades training to rebuild the economy.

The Prime Minister said before the budget "Our number on priority is jobs. That means this will be a jobs budget. That means doing all we can to support people staying in their current job or move to a new job if needed". Budget 2020 makes major investments in jobs and training to get New Zealand working again after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The headline for training and skills is a $1.6 billion Trades and Apprenticeships Training Package to provide opportunities for New Zealanders of all ages and skills to receive trades training.

With COVID-19 almost certain to change the balance of the New Zealand economy, there will be a number of people who will require new skills if they are going to be part of the labour market. While previous economic recoveries have relied upon migrant labour to fill skills shortages, this option is likely to be restricted given concerns over COVID-19. The skills are going to have to come from within New Zealand.

To support a changing economy the Government announced $334 million funding for additional tertiary education enrolments and $320 million of targeted investment support for free trades training in critical industries.

Making targeted vocational training courses free for all ages, not just school leavers over the next two years, will help people who have lost their jobs to retrain and also allow new employees in some essential services to train on the job.

Essential services will include courses linked to industry skills needs; in building and construction, agriculture and manufacturing, and also vocational courses such as community health, counselling and care work. The fund will be available from 1 July 2020.

Another important announcement is $412 million support for employers to retain and train apprentices.

Apprenticeships are often filled by younger people and training and development is often one of the first cuts that businesses make to reduce expenses during difficult times. It is pleasing to see the Government supporting apprentices to stay in work as they will become the next generation business owners who will take on apprentices themselves. If apprentices are lost to industries or the labour market now, it may be difficult to attract them back when they are required during the recovery.

Support for New Zealand’s younger workforce will also be provided through The Māori Apprenticeships Fund and expanding He Poutama Rangatahi. The Māori Apprenticeships Fund will receive $50 million to enable Māori Crown partnerships to support trades training through establishment of group training schemes. It is intended that Māori community groups will partner with the Crown to establish and design group training schemes that employ Māori as apprentices and support the placement of apprentices across a range of workplaces. It will work by providing tailored support for Māori employers to take on Māori apprentices.

He Poutama Rangatahi, a pilot initiative that supports rangatahi aged 15-24 who are most at risk of long-term unemployment and who are not in education, employment or training will be expanded. A $121 million investment will move He Poutama Rangatahi to a sustained footing in the regions, and speed up its establishment in urban areas such as West and South Auckland, Hamilton, Porirua and East Christchurch.

It is not just those in the workforce who will be supported. Our future workforce will be trained in the skills required to help with our recovery by building up our future skilled workforce. Increased funding of $32 million is earmarked to meet demand in Trades Academies. The increased investment will increase the volume of Trades Academy places in secondary schools by 1,000 places a year from 2021.

Retraining for the primary sector

New Zealand’s primary sector strength has been identified as one of the key sectors that will support New Zealand’s economic recovery. Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says farmers, growers and producers will play a critical role in New Zealand’s economic recovery.

The primary sector has relied on migrant labour force and that is unlikely to be as accessible during recovery. The primary sector is expected to need about 50,000 more people in a post-COVID-19 world. We now need a skilled workforce to help us seize the opportunities our strong primary sector can take advantage of during the international recovery.

The Government is planning to invest $19.3 million over four years in a range of initiatives to help recently unemployed New Zealanders access training and work opportunities in the primary sector. In the immediate term, this initiative aims to place at least 10,000 New Zealanders in primary sector jobs by retraining and absorbing workers displaced from other sectors including hospitality and aviation.

In the longer term, this initiative supports the growth of the primary industries by ensuring they are able to attract workers to meet current and future needs across the sector and at all levels.