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Getting a Life - Steve Maharey Speech

Hon Steve Maharey
Embargoed until 6pm, 11 July 2000
11 July 2000 Speech Notes

Getting a Life: The future of careers and learning services

Address to the Careers Practitioners Association of New Zealand Wellington branch. Asian Studies Centre, Victoria University of Wellington.


I am delighted to be here with you this evening.

In considering a title for my speech – something snappy as befitting the Association– I decided on Getting a Life: The future of careers and learning services.

You really are about assisting people to 'get a life' or perhaps more correctly to realise their full potential as productive members of our community. Another way of putting this, although it is somewhat less accessible, is that you are in the business of realising human capability.

Right across my portfolios I use a simple formula to capture the thrust of the Government's policy agenda – that formula is:

Capacity + opportunity = human capability

Your Association is about promoting professional standards and excellence – the capacity of your own members – with the objective of ensuring that the services to your clients are of the highest standard.

And very clearly the needs of your clients are captured in the human capability formula.

Careers practice involves lifting the capacity of individuals – providing them with the skills and knowledge to make considered judgements and choices regarding learning and employment.

It involves matching capacity with opportunity – ensuring that individuals have accurate and neutral information about the markets in which they will exercise choices, whether the market is one for the provision of learning, or whether the market is the labour market.

I understand that your Association brings together public and private sector practitioners – professionals working for Careers Services, tertiary education institutions, and in private practice. I think that this diversity of provision is a strength. I have made no secret of the fact that I think that there has been a worrying run-down in the public sector capacity and capability and much of what I will have to say tonight is about lifting both.

But I think it is vitally important to continually emphasise that provision of careers information and guidance is something that must happen right across the life cycle – it is not just about engaging with students in schools, polytechnics, or universities. We no longer have jobs for life, and that means that we will all need information and guidance at varying points in our lives.

Private practitioners working with corporate and individual clients in career management or out-placement are members of the wider family of careers practitioners. I welcome the opportunity to meet with an Association that brings the professional family together.

Manifesto commitments and policy initiatives

I want to talk this evening about the future of careers and learning services. Those of you familiar with the Labour Party Policy document, "21st Century Skills" will recall the commitment we made prior to the last election,

"to ensuring that New Zealanders have access to information and advice which will assist them to plan their learning and employment careers".

We made five further specific commitments in "21st century Skills":

 To expand the Careers Service into a Learning and Careers Service, and require it to provide a neutral careers information service to schools, job seeker and employers;

 To require schools to provide comprehensive learning and career planning and advisory services starting with course planning in Year 10 (Form 4) and individual career/future focus interviews with all students in Year 11 (Form 5), to develop agreed career and training paths for students. Planning will be then followed up in Years 12 and 13.

 To require all tertiary institutions to have charter statements and corporate plans setting out their commitment to the provision of career planning and advice available to students

 To review the effectiveness of career advice for Mäori, Pacific Islands and women students

 To work towards the objective of schools having a career plan for each of the students when they leave school

Engaging with you this evening provides an opportunity to rehearse the detail of that policy again.

It is important to rehearse the detail of that policy - some of you may not be familiar with it – because that policy is now largely the policy of the Labour/Alliance Coalition Government.

And because the Government has been seen – quite correctly in my opinion – as a manifesto driven Government, the manifestos of the Coalition partners provide not just the basis for policy development and implementation, they also provide a basis on which to evaluate the performance of the Government in implementing its programme.

That is as it should be. If we are to rehabilitate the notion of an electoral mandate we need to provide a sound and robust process for ensuring accountability.

In that respect meeting with you tonight provides one opportunity for a key stakeholder group – namely your Association – to assess the Government's performance to date against our pre-election manifesto commitments.

Budget 2000 and Careers Information and Guidance – the Report Card

For my part I am pleased with the progress that we have made. At the same time I am conscious that there is still more to do.

What does the report card look like for the Government of 2000?

 The Government is investing an additional $6.2 million over four years to improve the quality of careers advice and make it more accessible

 New funding will allow the Careers Service to expand careers education to schools, and will secure the Service's 0800 CareerPoint information line. I want to say more about this new initiative later.

 Funding for the Careers Service, worth $1.9 million over four years will enable the Service to better deliver targeted careers education services to teachers and parents. Teacher as Career Educator (TACE) seminars will be run for year 7 and 8 teachers, while the Parents as Career Educator (PACE) package is aimed at parents with children in years 7 and 8 at low decile schools.

 Increased funding will also be used to develop occupational and industry outlook information for inclusion in the KiwiCareers website which is used as a key source of impartial career and training information

Given that we are 8 months into the first term of what I hope will be a long period in Government, I would suggest that this is a very good start. In my opinion it represents a qualitative step up from the somewhat random approach that the previous Government took to the funding of careers information and guidance.

Let me comment on one new initiative with immense potential.


The CareerPoint 0800 number is a particularly exciting development:

CareerPoint is about increasing access for all New Zealanders to quality, impartial career information and advice. It is staffed by experienced career practitioners, trained in call centre technology, and provides access to career information and advice for 12 hours a day, Monday to Friday, and for four hours on Saturdays.

CareerPoint is of particular value to those living in small town or rural areas or people with disabilities who may not have ready access to careers providers.

During the CareerPoint pilot almost one quarter of the calls were received from people living in small towns or rural areas, or people with disabilities who may not have ready access to careers providers.

CareerPoint is another vehicle for Mäori and Pacific people to access career information and advice and aims to contribute towards closing the gaps for these groups. During the CareerPoint pilot 19% percent of the calls where from individuals who classified themselves as Mäori.

The Government has been impressed with the quality of the CareerPoint service, and in particular with its ability to reach new Zealanders who may otherwise have no access to careers advice. That is why $4.3 million is to be invested in CareerPoint over 4 years to secure the service.

New Zealand now has a leading edge career information service that provides access to up-to-date, impartial, and accurate careers information.

My ambition for the Careers Service is that it continues to develop its capacity to the point where it is acknowledged, domestically, and internationally as being one of the benchmarks against which others assess themselves.

The challenge is clear

We need to create the awareness among all New Zealanders about the value of career planning.

Quality career decision making is central to a productive labour market especially with labour market diversity, and increasing education and training choices.

There is a particular need to raise the awareness of career information, advice and guidance among Mäori and Pacific people.

My colleague Trevor Mallard and I will shortly be taking a paper to the Cabinet Committee on Closing the Gaps recommending initiatives to improve the effectiveness of careers advice to Mäori and Pacific peoples.

Let me say as an aside that addressing an issue of this kind is made somewhat difficult by the lack of baseline information about current provision and effectiveness, and a lack of measurable outcomes of careers advice. This is an issue that the Association may want to reflect and tender some advice to Government on.

Improving the effectiveness of careers advice to Mäori and Pacific peoples will require short and medium term initiatives. In terms of the former, my colleagues and I will be considering proposals to develop careers awareness in Years 7 and 8 school students so as to influence the greatest number of at-risk group before formative decisions are made, and in adults in the community who will not receive careers advice through existing initiatives.

I am absolutely committed to ensuring that all school leavers have a career plan and that careers provision is strengthened in schools. This is one part of our broader commitment to ensuring both formal and informal life long learning.

Lifelong career guidance is about providing the members of our community with access to career information, advice and guidance, when they need it, and in a cost-effective manner.

Meeting this challenge will involve the two A's and the two C's:


Awareness on the part of knowing the value career planning and knowing how to get career planning services


Access for people to access quality, impartial career services in order to make good decisions. A variety of contact points are essential. Some people will get all the assistance they need through the internet. But we live in a society where the digital divide is a reality –many cannot afford the cost, or do not have the individual or familial capacity to access the internet.

Others will be able to access services through a telephone call, but as I am sure the members of the Career Practitioners Association would agree, the value added by face to face contact is such as to make this the preferred method of engaging with clients.


There needs to be capacity to deliver career services to all New Zealanders. The Government has already started to examine ways and means of building the capacity of the careers industry and I would value the advice of your Association.

Closing the Gaps:

As I have already indicated, the Government is totally committed to ensuring that CIAG services are relevant to Mäori, and to Pacific peoples.

Concluding remarks

The people gathered in this room this evening know that the provision of careers information and guidance does have the potential to change lives for the better.

Because we are a Government committed to nurturing human capability and to addressing the causes and consequence of social exclusion - in its various manifestations – we are committed to working with you in a partnership. It will be a partnership that will be about developing new and innovative policies, and ensuring the effective implementation of those policies on the ground – in the words of one of the sections in your Association's purpose statement, "enhancing the content, nature and quality of career services delivered to clients in all sectors".

The future of careers and learning services is in our hands, in a very direct and immediate sense in yours, and from the point of developing and implementing sound public policy in mine. I hope that in partnership we really can help people to realise their potential, and to grow our economy and society – in the vernacular, to 'get a life', and be part of something special.


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