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Street: Salvation Army Employment Plus conference

Hon Maryan Street
Associate Minister for Tertiary Education

24 September 2008

Speech to the Salvation Army Employment Plus conference

Speech deliverd by Associate Tertiary Education Minister Maryan Street to the Salvation Army Employment Plus conference at the Comfort Hotel, Wellington

Tēnā koutou, Talofa lava and good morning.

Commissioner Garth McKenzie (Territorial Commander of The Salvation Army), George Borthwick (Employment Plus National Manager) Salvation Army Employment Plus Governance Board members, and conference delegates.

It’s a great pleasure to have the opportunity to speak at your 30th Anniversary Conference.

Not only is overseeing the strategic development of the private training sector a part of my formal delegations as Associate Tertiary Education Minister but I have a real interest in the work that your organisation is doing in our communities.

Since taking up my role, I have made it a priority to understand some of the challenges that the sector – and organisations like yours – are facing.

For 30 years you have been contributing enormously to employment-related training right across New Zealand, with a prominent presence in our regions and particularly in smaller more remote areas.

Over this time you have helped thousands of people to improve their skills and job prospects. You have solid experience in engaging students - mostly our young people - from all types of backgrounds.

Everyone here today is very aware that education can change people’s lives. By focusing on helping those who are unemployed or have not experienced success in education before, you are contributing much to this country. I thank you for this.

This year’s conference theme ‘the Plus factor’ aptly reflects this contribution. It also challenges you to consider how you make the most of your considerable experience and enhance what you already do very well.

I say this because, as an organisation, I think you are in a great position to contribute to vital new government initiatives - in particular, the New Zealand Skills Strategy and Schools Plus.

The New Zealand Skills Strategy and Action Plan was launched by Prime Minister Helen Clark in July.

The exciting thing about this work is that the Skills Strategy has been developed through a partnership between our social partners - Business New Zealand and the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions together with the Industry Training Federation, and a host of key agencies.

This is a big achievement and one that I’m personally very proud of. For the first time government, business, unions and the Industry Training Federation are in agreement about how to build the skills our country needs now and into the future.

The Action Plan we have developed touches on all levels of skills. These include literacy and numeracy; trade and technical skills; degree-level qualifications; and also specific management and leadership skills.

Your history of assisting people with high needs to attain new skills and make a bigger contribution to society and the economy puts you in an excellent position to contribute to the success of the Skills Strategy, not to mention your experience and knowledge of a broad range of industries through your work with Industry Training Organisations.

Looking at some of the specific actions – you can, and I know you already contribute here, help people in our workforce acquire literacy and numeracy skills for tomorrow’s employment environment.

And when I talk about workforce I mean not only the people already in work but also those who are preparing for work, like the students in many of your programmes.

It is estimated that more than 800,000 New Zealanders need to increase their literacy and numeracy skills if they are to be successful in the workplaces of the future.

It is no secret that building literacy and numeracy skills can help people achieve in their study and at work. And in turn, building these skills also has positive flow-on effects for their family and community lives.

That is why the government made a major commitment in this year’s budget of $168 million over the next four years to support the enhancement of these skills.

Last month, the Tertiary Education Commission released the Literacy, Language and Numeracy Action Plan which details how this new investment will be spent.

The new funding provides a significant expansion of the Workplace Literacy Fund over the next four years.

This will open up opportunities for your organisation to expand on the work you already undertake with Workbase and Industry Training Organisations in the workplace.

Of course if we are serious about building the literacy and numeracy skills of the workforce, we have to ensure we have enough people with the expertise to teach these skills.

That is why the Budget included a further $7.5 million to support literacy and numeracy educators to increase their own skills.

I am aware that you are already increasing the number of staff studying for literacy and numeracy educator qualifications. Well done. I know the Tertiary Education Commission is keen to work with you on this further.

Tertiary education organisations are also being encouraged to build literacy and numeracy learning into their existing programmes and qualifications, rather than isolating them in separate blocks of learning.

Research tells us this is the most effective way for students to build these skills. I know this is not a new concept for you. I encourage you to continue to look at how you could build your contribution in this vital area.

Parallel to the work on the Skills Strategy, another strategy has also been developed and consulted on – Schools Plus.

This is a bold plan to lift the education and skills attainment of teenagers and ensure their involvement in education for longer.

Our aim is to see our young people in education and skills training of some kind until the age of eighteen, in order to build a stronger base for ongoing learning, including through the many opportunities private training establishments provide.

Private training establishments like Employment Plus will play a crucial role in the success of Schools Plus policy. This is because you already provide a pathway for further education and development of skills beyond the classroom.

While the policy work for Schools Plus is still being refined, I can say that it is likely to mean building on the many strong relationships you already have with secondary schools.

As the policy work continues, I encourage you to explore the role your organisation could play to increase the continued engagement of teenagers in education.

Combined, the Skills Strategy and Schools Plus provide a way to support New Zealanders – especially our young people - to build their skills and ensure that they can continue to learn throughout their careers. This is critical for building the workplaces of the future.

There are a number of tertiary education organisations that are in a good position to contribute to these initiatives. I have already been discussing this objective with sector groups and peak bodies. Together, through NZAPEP, we are working out how the private training sector could best contribute to these initiatives.

I am really pleased by the progress that is being made to develop a tertiary education sector that is even more pivotal to the success of New Zealand and its people.

I believe that the new approach to investing in tertiary education further clarifies and strengthens the relationship between government and the private training sector.

As you know, from 2009 government-funded private training establishments will follow your organisation and move on to Investment Plans.

I firmly believe the Investing in a Plan approach holds the key to unlocking unrealised potential within our tertiary education system.

I thank you for the way you have worked and will continue to work with the government at this pivotal time.

Thank you for inviting me to speak to you this morning and I wish you the very best for the rest of your conference.

Tēnā koutou katoa.


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