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Wage top-up pilot programme launched for trainees

1 February 2002 Media Statement

Wage top-up pilot programme launched for trainee forestry workers in Tairawhiti

Up to 200 new forestry workers on the East Coast will benefit from a pilot scheme launched today that will top up their wages while they’re learning the trade.

Industry and Regional Development Minister Jim Anderton and Social Services and Employment Ministers Steve Maharey and Parekura Horomia said shortages of skilled labour had been identified as a key issue for many regions and industries. For many workers though, acquiring new skills often meant losing income.

“The Tairawhiti Forestry Earnings Supplement Pilot recognises that people on benefit entering the forestry industry often have very low incomes during their first few months of work.

“Forestry workers are generally employed in contract gangs that are paid piece rates and the productivity of new workers is low while they learn the techniques.

“The supplement will ensure that beneficiaries entering the forestry industry do not lose out financially. New workers’ wages will be topped up for their first 12 weeks while they develop the skills and fitness for the job. There will be strong focus on ensuring pilot participants are suited to forestry work.

“The forestry industry has the potential to make a significant contribution to Tairawhiti’s economic development. One of the factors holding it back is the shortage of skilled labour. This pilot is part of a range of government strategies to support the development of a highly skilled forestry workforce. This includes improving training materials for the National Certificate in Forestry, the establishment of a national wood processing qualification and modern apprenticeships.
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“$230, 000 has been set aside from Vote: Industry and Regional Development for the pilot which will finish when the money is spent or by June 2003, whichever comes first. Work and Income, who will administer the scheme, will select beneficiaries to participate in the pilot.”

The Ministers said a successful pilot could see similar schemes established in other regions and key industries facing serious skill shortages.

“The earnings supplement, which is non-taxable, will top up the wages of new workers by $80 a week for the first three weeks and then reduce by $15 over three week periods down to $35 for the last three weeks of the 12 week period. The supplement will not affect eligibility for other ‘in-work’ assistance including accommodation supplement and family support.

“Participants in the scheme will also be eligible for ‘work start’ grants, that are available to all beneficiaries entering the workforce, to cover specific transition to work expenses and if necessary bridging finance. They will also be able to apply for an additional grant of up to $500 if the ‘work start’ grant is insufficient to cover the costs of clothing and equipment necessary for forestry work,” the Ministers said.

ENDS

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