Some hard lessons on education and training

Jenny Salesa

Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins and I are leading the ‘Education and Training’ work stream for Labour’s ‘Future of Work Commission.’

We have just released our discussion paper on Education and Training and I am very keen to hear your responses, thoughts and policy ideas about the big issues it tackles.

We can be proud of New Zealand’s strong public education system.

Out of focus

However, it is held back by too much focus on qualification attainment which rubs up against providing individual education pathways for our students.

We must question the traditional high school approach of ‘picking six subjects’ with the goal of going on to university. Schools need the ability to prepare students for their next steps in life, whatever those might be.

With job changes becoming more frequent and entire industries changing we need a more resilient and adaptable workforce. Many students might learn better or gain the skills they’ll need in industry training or on the job.

At present, many young people are falling through the gaps.

Rising unemployment

In South Auckland, for example, nearly a quarter of our young people aged from 15 to 24 are not in employment, education or training (NEETs).

These figures reflect a huge problem, for the young people, their families and for the society; these problems must be addressed effectively.

We are exploring ways to ensure our children leave school with all the skills and knowledge they need to make it in the 21st century world of work as well as the readiness to retrain as new jobs in emerging sectors arise.

All school leavers should be able to confidently face the future with the right set of skills and knowledge to move into education, employment or training.

Combined efforts

Schools, businesses and training providers must work together to ensure students are ready for the rapidly changing nature of work. Beyond that, industry training and apprenticeships must be enhanced to meet the needs of the modern workforce.

The most important thing we can do to prepare students for the changing workforce is to teach them how to ‘learn to learn.’

In coming decades, people may need to reskill several times so that they can change between jobs and industries as technology makes some roles redundant and creates entirely new positions.

And students must be prepared for life beyond school.

Our paper asks whether there should be a ‘toolkit’ for school leavers, which includes practical skills such as drivers licences and financial literacy.

Key questions

Key questions we would like the public to respond to are the following:

What do you see as the opportunities for education and training?

What do you see as the challenges to improving learning?

What policy solutions should Labour be looking at to improve learning?

What do you think of the issues and proposals raised in this paper?

You can read the discussion paper online

Please email your thoughts to

Freepost, Future of Work, Office of the Leader of the Opposition, Parliament Buildings, Wellington

Jenny Salesa in an elected Member of Parliament from Manukau East Constituency and Labour Party’s Spokesperson for Employment, Skills and Training.

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