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September 05, 2017 at 02:15 pm

The Labour Party's proposal to create a $2,000 Prime Minister's award is an encouraging signal, since every trainee and apprentice will save the taxpayer much more than that, says the Industry Training Federation.

Labour has announced that one student per public school per year could receive a $2,000 Prime Minister’s Vocational Excellence Award.

"We think it's good that Labour is encouraging young people to consider industry training and apprenticeships, and encouraging schools to offer a broad range of practical and vocational options,"  says ITF Chief Executive Josh Williams.  

Today's announcement comes on top of Labour's promise of one year's free post-school study, which includes industry training and apprenticeships.  The ITF is calling for clarity on how this will work in the industry training sector and is calling on any future government to support employers to take on new trainees and apprentices.

"We had over 40,000 first-year trainees and apprentices in our system last year," says Mr Williams. "They were all ages, in paid employment, paid taxes, put money into KiwiSaver, drew nothing in student support and took on zero student debt.  They also gained up-to-date skills in the context of a real business operating in the real economy."

"Employers across our industries would benefit from extra support in the early stages of training and apprenticeships when people are less productive and can require help to adjust to working life.  That's our version of 'first-year free'."

"A Prime Minister's Award will motivate talented young people to excel in areas that are vital to the economy and desperately short of skills.  The average student loan balance is now $21,000, or 10 Prime Minister's Vocational Excellence Awards.  On that basis, we think parents, employers, and future governments need to consider the enormous potential savings if more of our young people gained their skills and qualifications on-the-job, rather than through tertiary institutions," Mr Williams says.