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Catching the Knowledge Wave - Maharey Speech

11 December 2001 Hon Steve Maharey Speech Notes

Catching the Knowledge Wave

Comments at the launch of Skill New Zealand-Pukenga Aotearoa publication, Knowledge at Work – Workplace Learning in New Zealand. Beehive Foyer, Parliament Buildings, Wellington.

Introduction

I am honoured to have been invited by Max and Adrienne, and the other members of the Skill New Zealand family, to launch this impressive publication.

We have had a number of book-launches here in recent weeks – in keeping with one authored by Brian Edwards, this one too is a ‘portrait’ of a success.

Industry training is an integral part of the government’s vision to make New Zealand a knowledge economy. Critical to this is the provision of accessible education and training opportunities for all New Zealanders.

There was an eleven percent increase in those participating in industry training last year. A total of 81,000 trainees took part, supported by more than 22,000 employers.

I note that at the Business New Zealand ‘Changing Gear’ Conference last week Business New Zealand released details of a ‘Challenge and Scorecard’. Part of the challenge that they have issued is to set a target of having 160,000 people involved in formal industry training by 2005, and to have 40% of wage and salary earners participating in some form of training provided by their employer. I have to tell you that I have always been one for a challenge, and one of the first items of business for Skill NZ next year is going to be a discussion with me on whether we might accept that challenge. I suspect, if Skill New Zealand’s past record is anything to go by, that I will be told to come back with a target with more stretch in it than that set by Business NZ.

One of today’s success stories in industry training is Modern Apprenticeships. This work-based initiative for young people combines the opportunity for competency-based training while in employment with on-going support to the employer and the employee to ensure a successful outcome.

Modern Apprenticeships began in July 2000 as a pilot in a limited number of industries. By 30 September 2001 there were 1,640 modern apprentices in 26 industry sectors with over 3,000 expected by mid 2002.

Another success story is the Gateway programme, which builds the links between schools and businesses and allows schools to offer work-based learning opportunities for their students. To date 722 students from 22 schools have been involved. Strong interest is being shown by employers in providing workplace training for the students with a number of graduates going on to a Modern Apprenticeship with their employers. I am very keen to see this initiative make the transition from a pilot to a fully-fledged programme, and, while I don’t normally signal my objectives for the budget round in advance, this is one that I do intend pursuing.

For many New Zealanders, learning in the workplace will provide a quality pathway to the knowledge and skills they need to achieve their potential. It can provide an ongoing opportunity to learn new skills and gain national qualifications

This publication highlights the part workplace learning is playing in building a skilled and adaptable workforce. It celebrates the diversity of approaches, the achievement of those participating and the innovation that is occurring in workplaces around the country.

Importance of workplace learning in the tertiary/education mix

International research confirms that training based in the workplace plays an essential role in providing and maintaining employee’s technical skills. The research also shows the rise in skill levels from investment in training leads to higher productivity for the firms involved.

Workplace learning offers a range of benefits to employers and employees including increased efficiency, improved safety and health, improved competence and consistent job performance.

For employers, workplace learning can boost competitiveness and productivity. It offers an opportunity for employers to tailor on and off job training to meet their firms’ needs, and to build the quantity and quality of the skills of their workforce.

Many of those in work have little or no concept of themselves as learners. They may see learning as an institution- based activity only. Workplace learning offers a practical option for these people to build and formalise their skills and to increase their desire to learn. Workplace learning experiences can lead to new learning and career pathways for the people involved.

Work based learning components in pre-employment programmes such as Training Opportunities, Youth Training and Skill Enhancement, play an important role in developing the skills of those seeking work.

Collaborative partnerships

The Industry Training Strategy has seen Government and industry building partnerships to respond to the skill demands prompted by rapid technological change.

New Zealand is characterised by a high proportion of small firms. For these businesses, innovative ways need to be found to overcome the limited resources available to invest in training. Collaborative approaches, such as the pooling of resources, are being tried by enterprises as a way of overcoming skills training challenges.

Business and industry stakeholders and training providers are working together to ensure a range of training approaches and environments are available for enterprises and individual employees. The case studies in this publication give practical examples of how two industries have made the links between work and learning and strengthened their businesses as a result.

Case Studies

The training strategies of two major industries facing rapid technological change, global competition, customer demands for quality and service and skill challenges, are showcased in this publication.

Forest Industries Training and The Electro-Technology Industry Training Organisation have responded to these pressures with a comprehensive range of workplace learning initiatives to upskill their workforce and to attract new recruits.

Both industries have identified the need to “champion learning” if they want to be competitive. Forest Industry Training has set clear skill development goals for the sector based on a range of national qualifications. The ETITO have worked with ‘role model’ companies to develop and endorse new workplace training materials and qualifications in the seven sectors it covers.

The two Industries Training Organisations have ‘learning champions’ in their chief executives, John Blakey and Marilyn Brady. These people are committed to ensuring their industries skill needs are defined and that training opportunities to meet them are provided.

For people working in these two industries, the case studies show the real plus is that the training comes to them. Skills leading to national qualifications can be assessed on- the- job by qualified workplace assessors as the learner is ready.

The trainees’ stories in this publication confirm that knowledge is at work in the workplace.

Conclusion

Let me once again congratulate all those in Skill New Zealand, and all those in the wider industry training family, who have contributed to this publication.

It is the time of the year when we can reflect on what we have achieved. I think that for this group assembled here it should also be a time when we look ahead with anticipation and optimism.

I am looking forward to next year – I am looking forward to Skill New Zealand hosting a very significant conference on the workplace as a place of learning. And I am looking forward to Skill New Zealand bringing its institutional, individual, and collective strengths to the Tertiary Education Commission.

Ends

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