Getting skills and training policies right plays a crucial role in ensuring that young people leave school and get earning or learning, improving our workforce, creating jobs and tackling New Zealand’s housing crisis.
As I move around the community, people tell me that their number one issue is housing. They are shocked at our levels of homelessness. Cold, damp mouldy housing is causing over 30,000 children to be hospitalised, the deaths of around 20 children per year, and our young people to develop long-term chronic health issues.
Health and community safety are high priorities alongside employment – working people want good jobs and good incomes, which will allow our families to thrive and our young people to own a home.
These are interdependent issues. The solutions require us to put in place a suite of policies, including a well-conceived approach to skills and training, which gets more young people into the trades, help existing workers upskill and gets those much-needed, affordable houses built.
Labour’s measures to solve the housing crisis include increasing supply – our KiwiBuild programme will see 100,000 high quality, affordable homes built over 10 years, half in Auckland. Increased house-building will require a larger workforce – KiwiBuild is projected to create 5000 new jobs at its peak.
Labour will help young people to be work-ready both before they leave school and afterwards if they are not ready for work.
Under Labour, every secondary student would complete a School Leavers’ Toolkit, meaning that they will leave with vital life skills and work-ready. This includes getting a driver’s licence and having key workplace competencies, including financial literacy.
The huge number of 15-to-24-year-old, who are currently not in employment, training or education (NEET) and who are at a loose end in our communities is a scandal. A small portion of that group is even putting our communities at risk.
Under National, the number of NEETs spiralled to more than 90,000, a 50% increase from when they came into office. The current government’s funding cuts, obsession with arbitrary education achievement targets and punitive reactions when their policies fail is not solving the issues for our communities.
We simply cannot afford to have young people wasting their lives sitting at home doing nothing. Further, the longer that our young people are disconnected from opportunities the harder it will be to ensure that they can access decent work and training in the future. Labour has a comprehensive plan to help them into education, training or employment and it’s time to put that plan into action.
Dole for Apprenticeships
For example, Labour’s Dole for Apprenticeships policy will incentivise employers to take on about 4000 young people for on-the-job training in fields including building and construction.
Our policy of three years free post-school education will see tens of thousands more people study in all fields, including building and construction. To further support New Zealanders getting the education and training they need, we would also reinstate funding for programmes, like night classes, that support adult learners to adapt to the changing world.
The rise of working families having to live in garages and even cars illustrates again how important it is that Kiwis have access to good jobs and are paid fairly. Labour will boost the minimum wage, initially to $16.50. And as a good employer, Labour in government will pay all core public sector employees at least the Living Wage, and this will be extended to contractors over time.
For more information on the policies of Labour Party, please visit
Jenny Salesa is the elected Member of Parliament for Manukau East.
She is Labour Party’s Spokesperson for Skills & Training and Associate Spokesperson for Health, Education and Employment.