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Maharey Speech: Many pathways to success

Steve Maharey Speech: Many pathways to success

Comments at a New Zealand Flooring Industry Training Organisation Modern Apprenticeships induction and graduation event. Coopers Flooring First, Christchurch.


Ladies and gentlemen I am honoured to be here this morning to celebrate not “four weddings and a funeral” but rather seven commencements and a graduation.

This function gives us the opportunity to congratulate the first Modern apprentice to complete the National Certificate in Flooring. Kerry Cooper began his Modern Apprenticeship in January 2001 and was one of the first Modern Apprentices registered with the Flooring ITO.

In addition, we’re celebrating seven young people’s decision to continue their training in the flooring industry by signing Modern Apprenticeships training agreements today.

Philosopher Lao Tzu said the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

We’re here today both to celebrate these Modern Apprentices’ journeys; the steps they have taken so far towards a successful career, their successes to date, their prospects to come, and also the steps we’ve taken toward a new tertiary education landscape.


There are a lot of people and organisations to acknowledge today. I’d like to congratulate the seven young people who will soon sign their Modern Apprenticeships agreements: Shane Bell, Jason Bell-Searle, Ross Fisher, Aaron Hartley, Chris Kirk, Jeremy McGregor and Nathan Ruse; Congratulations to Kerry Cooper, our newest qualified flooring installer; Their parents and supporters also deserve acknowledgement. It’s good to see many of you here today; I warmly acknowledge the employers who have had the foresight to invest in training. These include Carpet Kingdom, Canterbury Floor Sanding, Garnett Campbell 2000, Sutherland Floor Sanding, Floor Preparation Specialists, Independent Carpet Centre, and our hosts today Coopers Flooring First; Also, the National Trade Academy (Wigram), who provided these prospective Modern Apprentices with valuable-theory based learning such as first aid, numeracy, customer relations, planning skills, and more; The Flooring ITO, who are working to expand training opportunities and overcome skills shortages in this expanding industry; The Tertiary Education Commission, for setting up and administering Modern Apprenticeships; And finally, I’d ask you to acknowledge this government, who saw the need to get more of our young people into industry training leading to national qualifications, and arranged for the setting up of Modern Apprenticeships.

Modern Apprenticeships

It gives me a lot of satisfaction to see how Modern Apprenticeships has flourished since we announced it in 2000. At the end of March (the latest figures available) we had just over 5,100 young people signed up as Modern Apprentices in 28 different industry sectors throughout New Zealand.

We have made further funding available in the recent Budget to enable further growth to 7,500 by June 2006.

If we are to improve New Zealand’s international status, we must dramatically lift the skill levels and adaptability of our workforce. To do this we must encourage all young people to keep learning, to keep acquiring skills and to recognize the benefits and necessity of lifelong learning.

This, however, is totally dependent upon there being a range of exciting and relevant opportunities available. Modern Apprenticeships illustrate the successes and enthusiasm that can be generated if we provide real and meaningful alternatives for our young people.

Overall, our aim is to make tertiary education relevant and accessible to all New Zealanders.

In short, we’re developing a new tertiary education landscape.

The new tertiary education landscape

We have set up the Tertiary Education Commission to progress this. For the first time, we have an organisation with an overview of the entire tertiary sector, from schools to post-graduate and research, so we no longer have a divide between advanced trade skills such as these and academic learning.

The availability of qualifications and recognition will allow employers to recruit interested and career minded people and to engage in more systematic training and succession planning than previously.

Many New Zealand businesses now agree that training is an investment that pays off, in increased productivity and a highly motivated staff. This government is strongly committed to supporting workplace learning and qualifications achievement. This is a cornerstone of our Tertiary Education Strategy.

We believe that education and training are increasingly vital to raising the skill levels of all New Zealanders to ensure they are adept at creating knowledge, transferring knowledge, and applying that knowledge through all parts of the economy and society. People are now the most important input in any modern economy and the quality and quantity of skills demanded continue to rise.

Opening new youth pathways

But too many young people are leaving school without the basic skills they need to live and work in modern New Zealand. In 2001, while 85 percent of 16 and 17 year olds were in education or training, around 9000 school-leavers left school with no qualifications at all.

Leaving education with no qualifications undermines later job prospects. In 2001, only 55 percent of 25 to 29 year olds with no qualifications had a job. This compares with 80 percent for those with higher school certificate, and 85 percent employment with a degree.

Stopping any young person slipping away from education into a possible lifetime of unemployment was a manifesto commitment of both parties in the coalition government.

We have agreed that:
By 2007, all 15-19 year olds will be engaged in appropriate education, training, work or other options that will lead to long term economic independence and well-being.

But I want to make it clear this is to remain a voluntary leaving age: we are not in effect raising the school leaving age to 18.

Without the element of compulsion, the onus will be on all of us to build the menu of exciting, relevant and accessible quality options that will make young people want to stay in education and training.

Our message to young people is that there is no one rigid pathway from school to education, training or work. But there are people, programmes and information to help you make the best decisions about your future.


In recent years we have made huge progress with industry training – hugely increased numbers, higher quality, greater investment in training on the part of industry as well as government. These are big gains, but there are still areas that demand an energetic and proactive response.

We have had positive economic growth for a number of years, but that growth can be quickly undermined by skill shortages.

As you know, we recently carried out a review of industry training in New Zealand. This review showed us that ITOs such as yours are doing a great job in identifying and meeting the current skill needs of businesses.

It identified too, however, that a big challenge remains, the challenge of anticipating and catering for New Zealand’s future skill needs.

This Government believes that ITOs are in a unique position to deal with future skill needs within their industries. You have the in-depth knowledge and experience of your sector, you have the confidence and good will of your participants built up over many years, and skills development is your business. You are the experts in your industry’s skills issues.

At the end of last year, we passed the Industry Training Amendment Act which formally extends your responsibilities and makes it mandatory for the Flooring ITO, as with all ITOs, to provide leadership within your industry on skill and training issues.

Inter-agency cooperation

Therefore, I am very gratified to see the Flooring ITO taking leadership to address the shortage of skilled flooring installers with your 10-week Training Opportunities Induction Course.

This Induction Strategy includes the co-operation of two crown entities (the Tertiary Education Commission and Work and Income New Zealand), the Flooring ITO, National Trade Academy and local business to support real growth in the Canterbury region.

This is an excellent example of the inter-agency cooperation we want to see to build a range of tertiary education and training pathways so we don’t have young people falling through the cracks in their transition to adult life. Clearly, the multiple issues facing young people require joined-up solutions to build these pathways.

Well done to everyone involved.


I’m sure you have already taken some excellent steps in your journeys and I wish you many more.

Now I’d like to ask Aaron, Chris, Jason, Jeremy, Nathan, Ross, and Shane to commence their Modern Apprenticeships with the signing of training agreements. To follow, Kerry will receive the National Certificate in Flooring marking his graduation from Modern Apprenticeships and qualification as our newest flooring installer.

Congratulations everyone.

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