Free Post-School education promises good times

Labour’s Policy includes training and upskilling 

Chris Hipkins – 

New Zealand cannot afford to ignore the impact that the spiralling cost of education. The workforce in the future will need to train, retrain, and possibly retrain again. Anyone who cannot or is not given the opportunity to, risks being left behind.

Something must change, and under the next Labour government, it will.

Free post-school education

Last year, Labour Leader Andrew Little announced our plan to introduce three years of free post-school education for all New Zealanders.

We are not just talking about university. The three-year free plan will cover all forms of post-school education, including apprenticeships, trades training, polytechnic courses, and university undergraduate degrees.

While some claim that it is too expensive, most New Zealanders know that we just cannot afford not to make this investment in our future.

With forecasts suggesting that up to 45% of our current jobs will disappear within the next two decades, it is absolutely clear that we need to provide every New Zealander who has not yet had a shot at post-school education with that opportunity.

Structured Programme

The three year-free post education will be available to all school leavers, and it will also be available to those currently in the workforce who have not done any post-school study in the past.

It will be phased in over time, and will certainly be cheaper than the tax cuts the current National government have planned. It’s a great investment in the future.

As the age profile of our workforce changes, up-skilling is going to be more important than ever.

Today there are roughly five working age New Zealanders for every person over 65. Over the next two decades that ratio will shrink to almost half.

Given that the superannuation and healthcare for those over 65 is paid from the taxes of those still working, it stands to reason that we need them to be doing well and earning good incomes.

Skilled Staff

Higher levels of education lead to higher incomes. That’s a fact. Higher incomes lead to a higher tax take by government. That is also a fact.

Employers have consistently told us that the biggest issue they face in growing their business and improving productivity is the availability of skilled staff.  That is what this policy will help address.

Current tertiary education policy isn’t sustainable. Every year we lend more under the student loan scheme than we collect in repayments, and that’s after 25 years of student borrowing. Total loan debt will shortly clock $15b and it’s still growing. The average amount borrowed per student also continues to climb as fees are ratcheted up every year.

Removing inequities

Labour will always focus on providing support to those who need extra help, but we are also committed to tackling the root causes of inequality and disadvantage.

Access to quality, free education massively levels the playing field. Of course, we will invest in early childhood education and schooling too – watch this space.

Just as the First Labour Government recognised that secondary education was needed by everyone, we have recognised that in today’s world, post-secondary education and training is essential.

Up-front investment in free post-school education will create a stronger, more productive and inclusive economy.

The initial outlay will be more than fully repaid.

Whereas National wants to give the short-term sugar hit of tax cuts, we want to use that money to build a stronger future for all New Zealanders through this policy.

Every New Zealander deserves the chance to better themselves and fulfil their hopes and dreams. This is about an investment in our future as a country.

Chris Hipkins is an elected Member of Parliament from Rimutaka and Labour Party’s Spokesman for Education.

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