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Government announces next steps in skills gap plan

(Headline abbreviated, original headline: Government announces next steps as part of a comprehensive plan to fix skills gap)

The Government is taking action to increase the number of young people taking up vocational education and training and help plug the persistent skills gap in areas like construction and agriculture, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said today.

“These changes are part of the Government’s comprehensive plan to boost skills training and tackle the long-term challenge of skills shortages,” Chris Hipkins said.

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) forecasts the demand for skilled workers, including plumbers, electricians, shearers and tilers to increase by over 5,000 on average per year over the next three years.

“To make sure there are enough skilled workers to fill those roles, we are tackling the long-term challenge we inherited of getting more young people to take up trades and work skills training.

“A recent survey by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) found that 42 percent of 18-24 year olds surveyed did not have a positive image of vocational education in New Zealand. The same survey also showed that 53 percent of parents surveyed would rather their child attend university than enrol in a polytechnic or on-the-job training.

“For too long vocational education and training has been allowed to drift, playing second fiddle to university education. The three initiatives announced today are part of the Government’s plan to turn that around.

“The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) will lead the new education-to-employment brokerage service. These brokers will build strong local relationships with businesses and schools and act as a liaison between schools and employers in their region to highlight local trades and vocational opportunities for students.

“We are also supporting a further 140 Ministry of Education careers events that connect schools, communities and employers over the next couple of years, and establishing a contestable fund to support secondary schools to run their own trades events.

“We also recognise the key role that parents and teachers play in helping young people choose career options. That’s why we are developing a marketing campaign to promote vocational careers to students, parents, whānau, teachers and employers.

“It is part of our plan to shift the perception of vocational education and training as a positive and attractive career path, and ensure critical sectors in our economy have the access to the skills they need to grow.

“The promotional campaign will have a strong focus on Māori, Pacific people, learners with disabilities, and those who are currently underrepresented in certain vocational careers.

“These initiatives work alongside other Government programmes such the Prime Minister's Vocational Excellence Awards, the expansion of Trades Academy and Gateway and the reform of vocational education to meet the skills needs in our country.

“In the longer-term, the secondary-tertiary funding arrangements are also being reviewed, with a view to increasing school students’ access to secondary-tertiary and workplace learning, and provide more direct pathways for school students into higher-level vocational education.

“Ultimately, we want more people in apprenticeships, more businesses engaged in work-based training and better connection between schools, tertiary institutions and employers,” Chris Hipkins said.

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