Businesses on proposed education reforms – research

More than half of employers surveyed say they will hire fewer apprentices if a Government proposal to merge polytechs into one national body is implemented – according to new research.

A survey of more than 920 employers from around New Zealand conducted over the past two weeks by the country’s largest Industry Training Organisation (ITO), found that employer confidence in the proposed structure was so low that more than half (55 percent) said they will either stop hiring apprentices or take on less apprentices.

Garry Fissenden, CEO of The Skills Organisation, which represents 22 industries, 4,400 employers and more than 10,000 apprentices, says, in a media release, that it is clear the Government has underestimated the impact the changes would have on the productivity of trade businesses – and the resulting employment prospects for thousands of Kiwi youth.

“The results of our research suggest that serious repercussions from the proposed Vocational Education sector restructure are already being felt throughout the country.

“Seven out of ten (69 percent) employers said the changes will bring uncertainty on how the training process will work. The majority of the employers feel the proposed changes will significantly impact on their ability to take on apprentices,”

“Clearly the outcome of rushing through a change to industry training would be to widen the desperate shortage of trained and skilled tradespeople,” he says.

Fissenden says two thirds (66 percent) of employers surveyed felt the proposed changes would be out of touch with their needs and signal a shift towards more theory-based training.

A further 61 percent said it would become more difficult to train apprentices with almost two thirds (65 percent) saying the restructure would discourage employers from taking on trainees at this level.

“The reality is that most employers do not believe polytechs will be able to provide trainees with the practical skills they need to be immediately productive,” he says.

Almost half (45 percent) of the respondents also felt it would discourage young people from embarking on a trade career.

“The vast majority of businesses are SME’s who can only afford to take on the risk of hiring apprentices if they are work ready.

 “Finding a better model of industry training, will require a better consultation between employers, apprentices and Government. The current proposals need a rethink,” he says.

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