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Skills training and economic transformation:Cullen

6 December 2006 Speech Notes

Skills training and economic transformation

Speech notes for InfraTrain and Works Infrastructure graduation ceremony for National Certificate in Civil Engineering, Beehive.

It's a pleasure to welcome you here for this ceremony.

These graduation ceremonies recognise the hard work and achievement that goes into preparing for a career.

We’re also here to reinforce the importance of trades training as a successful tertiary education and career pathway.

The government is making a heavy investment in skills and training because they are critical to lifting our productivity and transforming our economy.

In the long run, higher productivity is the only way we will improve the living standards of New Zealanders.

It is also the pathway to success for our businesses, so when industry backs training it is investing in its own future.

Because of the strong backing from industry and government, industry training has been growing strongly.

We doubled the numbers in industry training between 2000 and 2005.

This government is preparing New Zealand for the future by creating a high-skill, high-wage, knowledge-based economy.

We don't have a choice about the demanding global economy we will face in future.

It offers both challenges and opportunities.

But we do have a choice about how we prepare for the future.

We will prosper best by building our skills, building on our competitive advantages and laying sound foundations, including high quality infrastructure and partnership between government and industry to overcome the barriers to development.

This training programme is a partnership between Works Infrastructure and InfraTrain, the industry training organisation for the infrastructure industry.

Infrastructure is not an industry that has traditionally involved itself in training.

In the past there has not been a requirement for formal qualifications.

So you are pioneers, at the breaking edge of a wave of higher skills.

The availability of a trained, competent workforce is critical to completing New Zealand’s infrastructure construction and maintenance projects. This government has made that a priority.

In recent years Infratrain has helped to change the perception of training and skills development in the industry.

It now offers 64 different diplomas and certificates.

This year more than two thousand trainees are studying towards sector qualifications, including through the Modern Apprenticeship scheme.

This is a great example of employees, business and an industry training organisation working together.

When Works Infrastructure first looked at setting up the national certificate, they created a learning committee.

This committee got ideas from employees about what skills and knowledge would be useful for the job, and these ideas were included in the certificate.

It’s a collaborative approach that deserves high praise and it's the kind of approach that is at the heart of the tertiary education reforms.

The revamp of the tertiary sector I am working on is part of the plan to ensure we have the right mix of skills for the economy.

I want a sharper focus on quality, relevance and value for the $2.6 billion we invest in the tertiary sector every year.

Graduates’ skills need to be better aligned with the needs of employers.

From 2008 tertiary institutions will have to make plans that take into account the needs of their regions – students, employers, communities.

They will have to consult with industry to find out what skills those businesses need.

The government's funding will follow the demand for skills and the needs of the region.

Industry will be better served, the quality of our training will be higher and students can be more confident that the qualifications they gain in training are those in demand from potential employers.

This course is a good example of the positive outcomes we can achieve from matching skills to the areas we need them.

It’s all about equipping New Zealand for the future by investing carefully in knowledge and skills.

For Works Infrastructure, the certificate being awarded tonight means worksites are safer and more productive.

For graduates, it means you have gained skills that will help to improve skill levels across the infrastructure industries.

And high quality infrastructure is needed if we are going to develop globally competitive businesses capable of earning the incomes we expect in a first world nation.

Successful businesses need effective and efficient infrastructure, including transport, energy, ICT, and water and waste.

This government is playing its role.

We are investing an extra $1.3 billion in infrastructure over the next five years.

$13.4 billion in total will be spent on land transport over this period as we expand and accelerate the largest road building programme this country has seen.

This investment, as with the investment in skills, is about an active government that is looking ahead to ensure we are well-placed for the demands of years to come.

Our focus on skills and infrastructure will help to prepare a high-performing twenty-first century economy.

The qualification we are celebrating today highlights positive way the infrastructure sector is preparing itself for that future.

It highlights also the optimistic future these graduates have in this sector and in the New Zealand of tomorrow.

So I congratulate graduates on their achievement.

And can I thank Works Infrastructure and Infratrain for their efforts in better equipping our economy for the future.

I wish you all the best for the development of your industry. Thank you.


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