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‘Moving On Up’ Easier Said Than Done

NZUSA Media release: 22 January 2013

‘Moving On Up’ Easier Said Than Done

A Ministry of Education report released today on earnings associated with levels of qualification is simply a statement of recent facts and does little to set any new direction for future generations to follow says the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA).

“We find it odd that hyping up pay differences makes the front page, at a time when bigger issues like record youth unemployment or the need to do more to create employment opportunities for everyone are just as compelling,” says Pete Hodkinson, President of NZUSA, the representative national body for tertiary students of all ages.

"The Minister may be a bit confused about the support the government should be directing to higher levels of study. Today he is quoted in the media saying that higher levels of study such as doctorates are good for the economy and good for students’ prospects and earnings, and yet from the 1st of January he’s created a barrier to postgraduate study by decreasing the student support previously available through eligibility for allowances to cover fees and living costs.

“For many students this means their best prospects for ‘moving on up’ may still call for a decision to ‘move on out’ of the country,” says Hodkinson.

“It’s no secret that achieving a higher qualification often leads to higher incomes. The fundamental issue is that while it’s obvious that some career paths can be chosen by some people in society, the same equality of educational opportunity is simply not available to everyone because not everyone can afford tertiary education or achieve at the same level to the same degree.

“At one level what a report like this confirms is that a small percentage of highly qualified people should expect to get richer, while most who dare to follow their dreams should think twice because they may be consigned to staying poorer in pursuit of a field that best matches their aptitudes and talents. The Minister is saying that many of the choices that remain available within the tertiary education offer only false hope. What kind of message or direction is that?

“We believe every New Zealander should be encouraged to follow their dreams in ways that best position them to take up opportunities throughout the many phases of their working lives – be that to be the best engineer they can be, the best social worker, the best teacher or the best trades person.

“It’s one thing to acknowledge the historic financial disparity between different careers and quite another to respond by raising a different kind of false hope that supply and demand will be exactly matched in the future. In the long-term, better answers will be found in valuing different segments of a profession more equally, for instance in health, and in ensuring that people who are effectively contracted for a career, like teacher graduates, are not left without any jobs to move into.

“The reality of the 21st century is that the job market will become less predictable and more volatile. We won’t always know what knowledge or attributes the ideal graduate will possess, but we do know that we are the ones who will determine our futures”.


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