Businesses to take on fewer apprentices under proposed education reforms – Research

Garry Fissenden, CEO of The Skills Organisation.
Garry Fissenden, CEO of The Skills Organisation.

More than half of employers 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 per cent) said they will either stop hiring apprentices or take on less apprentices.

Garry Fissenden CEO of The Skills Organisation, which represents 22 industries, 4400 employers and over 10,000 apprentices, says 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 per cent) 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 per cent) 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 per cent said it would become more difficult to train apprentices with almost two thirds (65%) 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 per cent) of the respondents also felt it would discourage young people to embark on a trade career.

“The results of the survey are a damning indictment of an accelerated programme of change which is being pushed through by the Government.

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

“The burden of these changes would be felt by New Zealand businesses for generations to come,

“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.