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July 25, 2016 at 01:15 pm

Industry training leaders gather at Te Papa in Wellington this week to celebrate two decades as a Federation, and plan for future growth, as more New Zealanders gain qualifications on-the-job as industry trainees and apprentices.

At a time when many industries are reporting acute skills and training shortages, education, business and government leaders will meet at the Industry Training Federation's (ITF) national conference to discuss skills and training issues and opportunities across the workforce - from school leavers, through to the aging workforce.

“New Zealand needs skilled workers to meet the pace of technological change and keep up with global challenges." says ITF Chief Executive Josh Williams.  “Our workplaces are our most up-to-date classrooms, and employers are making a huge contribution to the development and deployment of skills in our workforce.  This changes lives, boosts our economy and keeps us relevant.” 

Throughout the country, 138,000 people are gaining skills and qualifications at work through the industry training and apprenticeship system.  These trainees and apprentices are all supported by their employers and gaining relevant skills and qualifications.

Industry's investment in the system means that industry trainees use just 7 percent of the government’s tertiary education budget – or $180m.  By contrast, 146,000 university students absorb 53% of the tertiary budget for tuition subsidies ($1,100m), as well as over $800m in student loans and allowances.

The theme of the conference this week is maximising the productivity of the existing workforce.  “The changing world of work will require continued upskilling and reskilling throughout peoples' working lives.” Mr Williams says. "Given that reality, we need to have a serious think about the balance of taxpayer investment in post-school education.  Are we sure that focussing so much of our tertiary education energy on the first three years out of school is the most sensible thing we could be doing for our workforce, or our young people?"

“Industry trainees and apprentices are in jobs already. They pay tax and earn while they learn. They gain relevant skills and national qualifications.  Industry training is driven by industry. Who better to teach the skills of a profession than the people in it?”

New Zealand has a strong and successful industry training system.  New OECD data on adult skills ranks New Zealand first of 33 OECD countries for formal workplace training.  "This week we will celebrate the many thousands of employers, trainees and apprentices who have helped make our industry training system the success it is today.”  Mr Williams says.

The conference will also hear from Tertiary Education Skills and Employment Minister Hon Steven Joyce, Associate Minister for Tertiary Education Hon Louise Upston, and Labour Leader, Andrew Little.  The  ITF will also launch a new publication canvassing the history of industry training and apprenticeships in New Zealand.  The event is open to media.

International keynote speakers:

Diane Greenlees
Head of Foundation and Advanced Apprenticeships, Skills Development Scotland.
Scotland is a world leader when it comes to getting young people into careers. Skills Development Scotland is at the heart of initiatives to better engage the world of education and the world of work. This includes a careers’ advice model to actively managing young people's transitions from school to work; revamped apprenticeships, the Apprenticeship and Careers websites.

David Hoey
Worldwide CEO, WorldSkills

Since 1950 WorldSkills has been a global hub for skilled professionals.  Its mission is improving our world with the power of skills.  It runs the world's largest skills competitions, involving 72 countries and 45 industries. David Hoey has been the global CEO for WorldSkills International since 2004. He will discuss how we inspire high performance in the trades and professions. 

Dr Young-Saing Kim
Dr Namchul Lee
Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training

If the question is about improving productivity, it's hard to go past South Korea – one of the poorest countries in the world in the 1960s to the 11th largest economy in the world in 2014.  Earlier this year Bloomberg rated South Korea the world's most innovative economy - ahead of Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and Japan.  South Korea credits skilling its working population as the key to raising economic development and prosperity.

Dr Young-Saing Kim is a Senior Fellow at KRIVET, a Governmental institute focused on skills and workforce development.  

Dr Namchul Lee is the Director General of Global Outreach at the Centre for Global Co-operation at KRIVET.

Contact Josh Williams 021 618 467