There is no alternative to skills development

Jenny Salesa – 

Congratulations to Venkat Raman and everyone at Indian Newslink on the 17th anniversary of this excellent paper.

It is appropriate that your annual celebration comes close to Diwali, when we recall the victory of light over darkness and bless new beginnings.

I wish you many more successful years.

For all New Zealanders to enjoy prosperity and a high-wage economy with a high standard of living for all, we must invest in developing our people.

Every child’s chance of success can be enhanced if we apply what we know about decent education and youth success and invest in wrap-around services, engage the community and remove cost barriers to the pathways for young people.

Disappearing jobs

Meanwhile, people already working are finding jobs are disappearing or transforming beyond recognition. Supporting training and skills development has become vitally important for the country and for every Kiwi.

New Zealand has some significant skills shortages, particularly in Auckland, which are driving our housing crisis and other issues.

In construction and infrastructure alone in Auckland, we will be short by 32,000 skilled people by 2018, according to ‘Workforce Skills Roadmap for Auckland Construction.’ The government has failed to produce enough people with the right skills for the jobs available today, let alone prepared our young people and our workforce for the future.

The Future of Work

Labour colleagues and I spent the last two years collaborating with business, academics, unions and community to find the best ways to ensure every Kiwi is equipped to succeed in the 21st century. Last week, we launched our findings and conclusions in our Future of Work Commission report, ‘The Future of Work’ (online at:

We have developed the vision, direction and policies for an economic and social programme to enable New Zealanders to confidently face the changing nature of work. As Labour’s Spokesperson for Skills and Training, this has been particularly important to me.

Developing policies that tackle these changes will ensure decent jobs; lower unemployment; higher wages; greater security when in work or out of work; and highly skilled, adaptable and resilient workers.

Key Ideas

Here are some of our key thinking for improving skills and training:

Support Lifelong Learning. Labour’s Working Futures Plan provides three years of free, post-school education over a person’s lifetime for any training, apprenticeship or NZQA-approved higher education. Please visit the following website:



Transform Careers Advice. Every student must leave school with a personalised, career development plan, created with trained, professional careers advisors, and having had access to hands-on work experience developed with schools, businesses and training providers. Please visit the following website:


Smart Skills Strategy

Establish a Labour Market Development Policy Unit to work continuously with Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) producing and monitoring high-level, need projections across industry and steering the direction of education.

Work with sector stakeholders, industry and business to establish a New Zealand Skills Strategy that is fit-for-purpose in the 21st century.

Re-establish the Skills Leadership Group to capture data about skills gaps, needs and projections, develop training and oversee training delivery to ensure the needs of our economy are met.

Restore a skills leadership role to ITOs. Training will be guided by the New Zealand Skills Strategy.

Training Levy

Impose a training levy on industries in which skill shortages continue. Firms that can demonstrate they are actively engaged in training would be exempt.

Change funding systems to encourage the development of “hop-on, hop-off” training to help balance completing a qualification with gaining work experience. Here, ITOs would need to link apprentices with employers.

Fund programmes that provide gateways back into education and training for working and non-working New Zealanders, including restoring funding for night classes in secondary schools.

I am happy to discuss the details of Labour’s approach to this important area with Indian Newslink readers. You can contact me at

Jenny Salesa is elected Member of Parliament from Manukau East. She is the Labour Party Spokesperson for Employment, Skills and Training.  Phone: (09) 2749231 or (09) 2789972 Email:

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