By Megan Woods
With 87,000 young Kiwis not in education, employment or training, and Christchurch desperately needing skilled tradespeople to help with the post-quake rebuild, it would seem to be a no-brainer to be meshing the two together.
We could be setting up a generation of new builders, sparkies, and plumbers with the chance to establish themselves in well-paid careers for life. Give young people the training and skills, and the jobs and opportunities will follow.
So why is it then, that out of a $42 million dollar Government budget for the Skills Canterbury programme just $7 million dollars has been spent training people to help solve the obvious skills shortage in the region?
At least part of the answer lies with the complacent, business-as-usual attitude from the Tertiary Education Minister, Steven Joyce.
Astonishingly Mr Joyce says there is a low demand for training courses, and the Government is not about to “frog march” young people into training.
No-one is suggesting people should be dragged kicking and screaming to a course they don’t want to do – but surely more can be done to open our kids’ eyes to the benefit of getting skills and training?
If no one takes the lead then New Zealand will never have enough of the skilled workers that will be required when the Christchurch rebuild really gets underway.
Shame on National, then, for voting down my amendment to its welfare “reforms”, which explicitly inserted training under the Skills for Canterbury Package into the opportunities presented to young Kiwis on benefits.
This would have put young people on a benefit at the front of the queue when it comes to the Canterbury rebuild.
To be blunt, the National Government, propped up by ACT, United Future and the Maori Party, is failing our young people.
On one hand, it is increasingly willing to lay down the law to those on benefits, telling them what they can spend their payments on, and threatening to drug test them. But where is the positive plan to give them the skills and opportunities to make something of themselves?
Canterbury is crying out for skilled workers, yet the Government can’t seem to make the connection between that and the thousands of young people looking for work. It seems John Key and Steven Joyce would rather bring in workers from overseas than invest in those 87,000 young Kiwis.
What a waste.
Megan Woods is Labour’s Youth Affairs spokesperson