National governments always bungle education. So when sometimes they realise the mess that they’ve made, I really don’t know whether to laugh or cry:
Parata: tertiary focus skewed
New Zealand is in danger of experiencing a shortage of skilled tradespeople with so much focus on channelling students into university and academia pathways, Education Minister Hekia Parata said in Queenstown at the weekend.
Yes. Tertiary education should provide a broad range of options. We shouldn’t be trying to channel everyone into universities (and “bums on seats” funding models don’t help at all).
“It’s almost cheaper to get a lawyer than a plumber these days,” Parata told delegates…
Apparently this is what it takes to get a Nat to recognise the problem.
The Government was working hard to channel non-academic students into vocational trade and service pathways, she said.
No. The last Nat government was the one that gutted the traditional apprenticeship system. Here’s an EPMU press release from 2005:
National scrapped apprenticeships, says union
… Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union assistant national secretary Rosalie Webster says that it was a National-led government that effectively wiped out the old apprenticeship system in the 1990s, leading to the huge trades skills-crisis facing New Zealand today.
“The National Party, when it was last in power, decided that ‘the free market’ would deliver all the industry training New Zealand needed,” she said.
“It effectively dismantled the tried-and-true apprenticeship scheme that had trained generations of tradespeople, leaving an industry training deficit which is now causing industries major problems.”
Labour introduced the very successful modern apprenticeships programme to try and address the problem. This current National government cut the funding:
National temporarily stirs from slumber on apprenticeships
One announcement from an under pressure government does not make up for four years of inaction on apprenticeships and skills and training, says Grant Robertson.
“National has finally worked out that youth unemployment and the drop in the number of apprentices is a problem. The thing is it’s a problem of their making. And the usual National Party tinkering will not solve the problem.
“The drop in the number of modern apprentices under National has been stark. After the funding from Labour’s 2008 Budget ran out, the number of apprenticeships dropped by nearly 20%. The number of industry trainees in the same period dropped by 37%. “National’s hands-off approach has meant that many young people have fallen out of the system. …
So yes, we have a problem with not enough support for trades education and apprenticeships. And it’s good that Parata has noticed, I guess. But it’s a problem that is the making of National governments past and present, and they will need to completely rethink their blinkered approach to education in order to fix it.