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Maharey Speech: Salvation Army Employment Plus

Hon Steve Maharey
Minister of Social Services and Employment
Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)
Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector
MP for Palmerston North

Salvation Army Employment Plus

Keynote address to the launch and renaming of the
Salvation Army Training and Employment programmes.

Salvation Army Wellington City Corps, Wellington.
22 March 2000.

Check against delivery.

Good afternoon everyone. I am delighted to be here today for the launch of your new name and logo - the Salvation Army Employment Plus.

I’ve got some exciting news of my own to share, but first I’d like to congratulate Commissioner Ross Kendrew, Territorial Commander of the Salvation Army, National Manager George Borthwick and all of you here today for having the courage and the vision to take this new step.

I know that over the years the Salvation Army has made a huge contribution throughout New Zealand in education and training, especially helping those who haven’t achieved qualifications at school. It’s a tradition you should very proud of and I want to congratulate you for these past efforts.

There is so much about what you have done and are continuing to do, that anticipates and confirms what we as as a Government are seeking to achieve with Modern Apprenticeships.

At one level, and for some us this may in fact be the paramount and overriding consideration, there is a belief in social justice, in the importance of fostering a sense of community in a collective sense and dignity and self worth in an individual sense. I feel that sense of mission quite acutely as a social democratic politician – and I have sensed that same mission in the Salvation Army over many years of contact with the organisation. More specifically, at the level of your employment programmes, and with employment plus in particular, there are parallels with what the Government intends doing

 Employment plus is about providing a bridge between those seeking work, and those with work to offer – you perform a brokerage function in large part

 Employment plus is about socialising members of our community into work, and thereby providing them with economic independence and self-worth

 Employment plus is about providing a variety of education and training pathways

 Employment plus is about providing education and training that is linked to the National Qualifications Framework – and let me indulge myself for a moment in noting the fact that the NQF was a child of the Fourth Labour Government – it's one of the off-spring from that Government that I have no difficulty in claiming a sense of association with

 Employment plus is about work-based training, about getting the mix right between generic and industry specific skills, and mixing on and off-job education and training elements

 And employment plus is about giving people the chance to plan – to plan for a career, and to plan for the further education and training that we will all need if we are to be life-long learners

The more I look at employment plus the more I see that it really does embody most of the principles that we are seeking to promote through Modern Apprenticeships.

I’m also here today to applaud your willingness to change. It would have been easy for you to keep doing things the way you’ve always done them, but instead you’ve looked carefully at what you’re trying to achieve and headed in a fresh direction.

In our first 100 days of office, the Labour-Alliance Government has also set out with a fresh sense of purpose. Just like you, we’ve looked very carefully at how we’re delivering education to the community and we’ve decided it’s time for some changes.

This morning the Prime Minister announced our new Modern Apprenticeships scheme.

Modern Apprenticeships are a brand new vocational education and training pathway for young people aged 16 to 21. They are going to provide a prestige educational alternative for young people who want to learn in the workplace.

The reason we’re introducing Modern Apprenticeships is that it’s clear to us that existing approaches to workplace learning are no longer serving young people well.

To be prosperous, New Zealand needs a highly skilled, well-qualified workforce that can provide knowledge-based products and services, and that can take advantage of new technologies.

To lift our skills, we have to provide opportunities for all young people, not just some of them like we do now, to keep learning after they leave school.

But if we want them to keep developing their skills, we have to make it easier for them to do so.

At the moment, the academic path to tertiary study is very well defined. What New Zealand lacks, however, is a well-structured, vocational pathway for young people wishing to learn on the job.

This is evident in the statistics. During the 1990s, fewer and fewer young apprentices were employed. Last year, only 10% of industry trainees were aged 16 to 19.

This is part of a wider problem. According to the last Census, a quarter of all 16 and 17 year olds were not in education, training or full-time work. That’s a quarter of our future workforce disappearing out of education, when they should be taking their next step towards a productive adult life.

This has serious implications for New Zealand’s ability to refresh its skills and knowledge as our existing workforce grows older. It is not overstating the case to say that neglecting the skills development of our young people is a recipe for disaster.

Employers have told us that existing arrangements simply don’t provide enough support and encouragement for young people or employers to participate in formal workplace learning.

The barriers are pretty obvious ones. Employers are reluctant to risk hiring a young person whose strengths and abilities they are not familiar with. They prefer to upskill their existing workforce rather than take on a young apprentice.

Well, we’ve done some fresh thinking around these issues and come up with an innovative solution. Under Modern Apprenticeships, young people will gain access to systematic workplace learning, facilitated and fully supported by Modern Apprenticeship Co-ordinators.

These Modern Apprenticeship Co-ordinators will be chosen from industry training organisations, polytechnics, private training establishments, Maori organisations and community groups. They will be contracted by Skill New Zealand, the Government agency responsible for upskilling the nation.

I’m excited about this initiative because it heralds the beginning of a very practical and dynamic learning partnership between Government, employers and the community.

Modern Apprenticeship Co-ordinators will provide the local support for employers and learners that’s been badly missing until now.

They’ll actively assist young learners to find an apprenticeship and they’ll screen and match potential apprentices for employers minimising the risk and hassle of taking on a young apprentice.

The Co-ordinators will also ensure every apprentice trains according to an individualised training plan. They’ll support both the employer and the apprentice for the duration of the apprenticeship, helping to create a quality learning environment.

Modern Apprenticeships represent a big step forward. They’ll combine the strength of apprenticeship tradition with the best of modern workplace learning practice.

Modern Apprenticeships will be available in a wide range of industries beyond the traditional trades.

Learning will cover both industry and generic skills and give young people the broadest possible platform to launch their career. All achievement will lead to nationally recognised qualifications at levels 3 and 4 of the National Qualifications Framework.

Modern Apprenticeships will also play an important role in improving access for Maori to vocational education and training and qualifications. One of the goals Modern Apprenticeship Co-ordinators will work towards will be to ensure successful outcomes for Maori.

Planning for Modern Apprenticeships is already well advanced and the Government will introduce legislation for Modern Apprenticeships before the end of 2000.

To ensure a smooth introduction, I have instructed Skill New Zealand to pilot Modern Apprenticeships with a small number of organisations between June and December 2000.

I think this pilot phase is important because we need to balance being innovative with being responsive. So we’re going to take the time to get it right and refine our thinking as much as we can before we make Modern Apprenticeships available nationally. There will be opportunities for stakeholders like yourselves to make a contribution to the successful launch of Modern Apprenticeships.

Once the pilot phase is completed, Modern Apprenticeships will be introduced nationwide from early 2001 and numbers will be increased gradually as we develop the new apprenticeship training infrastructure.

Our aim is to have up to 3,000 new Modern Apprenticeships in place by early 2002.

It’s high time New Zealand had a well-defined, high status vocational education pathway for young people leaving school. Modern Apprenticeships are going to provide this. They’re going to make it easier for employers to recruit talented and committed young people into their workforce.

New Zealand’s always had a proud history of apprenticeships for young people, but in recent times the system’s fallen out of favour with employers. So much so that many parents are under the impression that apprenticeships have disappeared altogether.

Well, we’re going to bring back apprenticeships, because we’ve got to start shaping tomorrow’s workforce today. And we’re going to do all we can to promote the value of workplace education and training as a pathway to prosperity for our young people.

Thanks for the opportunity to talk about Modern Apprenticeships today. I wish you every success with the Salvation Army Employment Plus and I look forward to following its progress in the months ahead.

It gives me great pleasure to unveil for the very first time in New Zealand the Salvation Army Employment Plus logo.


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