Industry training organisation Competenz applauded the Government’s bold investment in the vocational education sector in the 2020 “Rebuilding Together” Budget.
$1.6 billion will be made available in the Trades and Apprenticeships Training package to facilitate the rebuilding of the economy in the aftermath of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Competenz CEO Fiona Kingsford says: “This is the most substantial Budget to support vocational education in recent times. Competenz relishes the opportunity to ensure our industries, apprentices and trainees take full advantage of the incentives and support to enrol new learners and keep existing ones in training.”
Ms Kingsford says the government spend is more important than ever, following a forecast by economics consultancy firm Infometrics, estimating that in a post-COVID-19 economy, sectors Competenz supports such as general manufacturing and mechanical engineering will see employment decline by as much as 10% in the next 12 months. Forestry employment could decline by around five per cent.
Part of the announced package addresses this, with $412 million in support for employers to retain and keep training their apprentices. This incentivises businesses to retain younger and more vulnerable staff members in the recovery process.
A further $320 million targeted investment will also make trades training free in these critical industries, which will make it easier for employers to train up their existing people, help those who have lost jobs to retrain and will be vital to supporting these sectors.
A further $19 million has been set aside for group training organisations (GTOs) to retain apprentices.
“This funding will be critical to support Apprentice Training New Zealand (ATNZ), Competenz’s largest employer of engineering apprentices, who currently employ and second over 370 apprentices around New Zealand,” says Ms Kingsford.
Additionally, the $50 million grant for Māori apprentices will support at-risk youth, especially in sectors like forestry.
These measures will also directly address the skills shortage New Zealand was facing before the pandemic began.
“Only two months ago, prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, our industries were crying out for skilled employees as the skills shortages impacted their businesses. This was a consistent story in the 37 sectors that we support.”
Infometrics estimates over 55% of metal fabricators, over 40% of refrigeration and air-conditioning mechanics, and close to 30% of fitter-welders were roles filled by skilled migrants in the last three years. The domestic market still has considerable labour demands across Competenz sectors that will continue to need to be met.
Now, Ms Kingsford says, acting quickly to implement these initiatives is key.
“It is critical that we don’t pause the momentum to bring young people with new skills into our sectors, especially as a number of these sectors have been reliant on skilled migrant labour, and the future of this labour flow is no longer certain. We will communicate with our employers, learners and industry when we have additional information on how they will be rolled out and the part Competenz will play in that.”