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PM Address To Workplace Learning Conference

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister


New Directions in Workplace Learning Conference

Town Hall

4.30 pm

Wednesday 22 May 2002

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute some closing remarks to what I understand has been a very successful conference.

This conference concludes on the eve of the 2002 Budget which will be presented in Parliament tomorrow. It is no secret that the Budget is about growth and innovation. What this conference has been about is generating the skills for a successful and prosperous economy. Doing just that is a key objective of the government’s strategy to grow an innovative New Zealand which I released in February.

To build a high value economy, we need more skills at all levels. In the forestry industry, for example, it is estimated that the numbers in industry training will have to double in the next five years, having already doubled in the last four. These are ambitious targets, but they can be met in forestry, as targets can be met in other sectors, if we work together across government, industry, unions, ITOs, educators and trainers.

At this conference you have heard Stuart Hornery speak of some of the successes of the Australian vocational education and training systems. He drew attention to initiatives being taken by governments in Australia with the social partners to lift the investment in training, and to lift the return on that investment.

Research in Australia confirms that the returns from investing in training are nearly always positive and can be very high, that the immediate returns to training are highest when the training is highly focused, and that training also yields higher returns when it is linked to innovation, particularly technological change.

I hope that the Tertiary Education Commission will ensure that research is done on the return on investment in training in this country. As Max Kerr noted in his key note speech to this conference, sustained research is vital if we are to realise fully the opportunities for workplace learning.

As a government we accept that we must invest as much as we can in education and in industry training, but in doing so we need to know that we are getting good value for our investment.

Last week we released the first ever New Zealand Tertiary Education Strategy – to guide our investments in tertiary education across the board.

Our judgement is that the tertiary education policies of the 1990s centred on raising participation rather than on building capacity and rewarding quality. They encouraged and rewarded competition rather than collaboration. They focused on individual institutions, rather than on the capacity that the system as a whole requires.

The new strategy sees tertiary education making a strong contribution to the achievement of New Zealand’s social, economic, and cultural goals. It sees it being dynamic, outward looking, and strongly linked with the communities of interest which it serves. It sees it equipping New Zealanders with the knowledge and skills which we as individuals and the nation as a whole need to prosper and develop.

While the Tertiary Education Strategy looks to a five-year horizon, it is not intended as a static plan which remains unchanged over the period. An ongoing dialogue will support the strategy and ensure that it remains dynamic and relevant.

This conference is an important and timely contribution to that dialogue. Effective implementation of the strategy will require a partnership between government and a wide range of stakeholders. That is the essence of the social partnership approach to which our government adheres.

In the Budget tomorrow we will be releasing details of how a new funding system will drive the transformation of tertiary education. The Integrated Funding Framework will see, from 2004, the evolution of tertiary education in New Zealand into an integrated system. It is designed to meet the needs of students and trainees, and society and industry; to help achieve national development goals; to develop foundation and specialist skills; and to deliver excellence in teaching and research.

The announcements tomorrow, informed by the work which has gone on within the sector and through the processes of the TEAC reports, bring about the kind of paradigm shift which John Blakey spoke of in his address to this conference. It is about moving to get a more appropriate balance in tertiary education between access, excellence, and relevance.

For work-based education and training, the 2002 Budget builds on the platform created by the government over the past two and a half years.

Within our first one hundred days in office we announced a new apprenticeship programme. Work-based and mentored industry training for young people through formal apprenticeships was a key feature of the industry training system until the changes of the early 1990s. A serious mistake was then made in excising the notion of apprenticeship from the system.

Our Modern Apprenticeships have been a flagship programme, designed to open up more opportunities for young people to gain well rounded trade and technical qualifications.

By the end of last year Modern Apprenticeships involved two thousand young people.

By the end of next month we will have hit the three thousand mark. But we are even more ambitious than that.

Last weekend I announced that the government intends doubling the number of Modern Apprentices by the end of next year.

In the Budget we are allocating an additional $41.02 million to Modern Apprenticeships over the next four years.

This means that in total over the next four years we will be putting $92.5 million into Modern Apprenticeships.

Today I have a further Budget announcement to make.

There are now more New Zealanders participating in industry training than at any time in our history. A total of over 95,000 trainees participated in industry training in 2001, compared with 81,000 a year earlier.

The Industry Training Fund increased by $8 million to $78 million in the current financial year, and was due to increase by a further $8 million to a total of $86.7 million in 2002/2003.

Today I want to announce that the government has decided to further lift the investment through the Industry Training Fund by way of an additional $14 million over the next four years. This means that the Fund will increase to $88.725 million in the 2002/2003 year, and to $90.725 million in 2003/2004 and out years.

This will enable more New Zealanders than ever before to participate in formal structured workplace training.

When we came into office we inherited an Industry Training Fund appropriation of $60 million.

An increase to more than $90 million by 2003/2004 is an increase of over fifty per cent.

That is a substantial investment in our future as a nation.

This conference has been about the economic return on investment in training, and about the economic and social dividends which result when people are provided with pathways to life-long education and training.

At the level of the individual we are talking about opportunities which change lives. I see it in the faces of the young people who have access to Modern Apprenticeships. I see it in the faces of adults receiving their first ever formal qualifications, made possible by both their own efforts and the commitment of industry and government to increasing training opportunities.

For the future, partnerships for industry training will be all important. I want to close today by talking about a particular partnership which has been clearly in evidence at this conference, and which has been given added momentum by it.

This conference was jointly sponsored by government – through Skill New Zealand – and by the peak organisations of business and unions, Business New Zealand and the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions. In his opening remarks to the conference, Steve Maharey noted that there had been a joint approach from Business New Zealand and the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions to establish a tripartite initiative on workplace learning.

The objective of the initiative would be to improve the quality, relevance, and accessibility of workplace learning, both for enterprise and for individuals in industry. The initiative would be about promoting the value of workplace and lifelong learning, and would focus on ensuring that the necessary infrastructure for improving lifelong and workplace learning is developed and supported.

As Steve Maharey noted, this initiative doesn’t yet have a name or a brand. Yet there are attractions in the one which you see in front of you today: Skill New Zealand. I encourage our partners in business and unions, and the Tertiary Education Commission, to look closely at how the existing Skill New Zealand brand could be used to promote this new high-level initiative involving the social partners and the government.

Thank you to you all for investing your time and energy in this conference.

Thank you to Max Kerr and his team at Skill New Zealand for co-sponsoring the conference on behalf of the government, for making it the success it has been, and for your role in leading the development of workplace learning in this country for the better part of the decade. Your record of leadership provides a solid foundation for the Tertiary Education Commission.

As a government we look forward to continuing to work with our partners in business, unions, education, and ITOs on producing the skills New Zealand needs to prosper in the 21st century.

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