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Obvious opportunity overlooked in education spending

Budget 2014: Obvious opportunity overlooked in education spending

The Budget has missed an opportunity to boost economic growth because it has not put more resources into up-skilling New Zealand’s current workforce, according to workplace literacy development organisation Workbase.

Chief Executive Katherine Percy agrees with the Budget’s provision for continued investment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics but says it is highly debatable whether more investment in these types of tertiary courses will give the greatest boost to improving New Zealand’s economic growth, innovation and productivity.

“While it is important to equip the future workforce with the necessary skills for a knowledge economy, we are missing out on the up-skilling of the 2.2 million people who are already in jobs. Investing in people who are already working is the greatest opportunity because they are best placed to make an immediate difference.”

Improving the existing workforce’s skills will make a more rapid difference to the economy, while there are future benefits through lifting the skills of those who are currently in the school and tertiary education systems.

Many employed adults, are facing increasingly complex job demands requiring higher levels of communication, literacy, language and numeracy skills yet research shows that around half need support to be better able to understand increasingly complex job tasks, processes and compliance requirements, and to complete study for qualifications.

“There is very limited funding support for employed people who need to build essential higher level literacy, language and numeracy skills to keep up in rapidly changing workplaces and this is holding back growth and constraining productivity.”

Ms Percy says that improving the workforce’s literacy skills will enable the Government to get better traction on its business growth goals through operational improvements, enhanced profitability and increased innovation within workplaces.

“If the Government is truly serious about boosting New Zealand’s economic growth, then it must plan for and resource workforce literacy, language and numeracy skill development”.


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