Pre­par­ing for our chil­dren’s fu­ture

The Tribune (NZ) - - OPINION - IAIN LEES-GAL­LOWAY

As we kick off the school year, many par­ents are think­ing about what the fu­ture holds for their chil­dren. Stu­dents in their last years of high school will be mak­ing some im­por­tant life de­ci­sions.

If your child goes into trades train­ing, an ap­pren­tice­ship or on to study at univer­sity, they’ll face big fees and liv­ing ex­penses.

Train­ing for a ca­reer is ex­cit­ing but the thought of big loans and debt is hardly the stuff of the great Kiwi dream. It makes all those other big life de­ci­sions – buy­ing a house, mar­riage and hav­ing chil­dren – so much harder. That’s why New Zealand is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the low­est rates of home own­er­ship since the 1950s. Young Ki­wis are com­ing out of post-school education with an av­er­age debt of $20,000 and that takes them nine long years to pay.

The Govern­ment seems hell­bent on ig­nor­ing the prob­lem. We can’t, which is why Labour’s Work­ing Fu­tures Plan is all about in­vest­ing in long-term life­time learn­ing.

We know that in 20 years’ time, 46 per cent of the jobs we do in New Zealand to­day will be gone due to tech­nol­ogy and au­to­ma­tion. Work­ers of all ages will have to train, and re­train, for the jobs of the fu­ture.

Our Work­ing Fu­tures Plan will al­low any New Zealan­der, no mat­ter their age, to un­der­take three free years’ of post school education; pro­vided they’ve never stud­ied past high school be­fore.

It will cover those do­ing trades train­ing, on-job ap­pren­tice­ships and higher education. Never be­fore has vo­ca­tional train­ing been so im­por­tant.

We’ve taken a sen­si­ble and af­ford­able ap­proach to the chang­ing na­ture of work and the debt which is crip­pling young Ki­wis. Our plan will be phased in over a decade, with the first year free from 2019 at a cost of $265 mil­lion. The se­cond year will kick in 2022 and third in 2025.

It is an in­vest­ment in New Zealand’s fu­ture which will cost $1.2 bil­lion when fully im­ple­mented. And the money is al­ready there – it is money Na­tional has set aside for tax cuts.

Em­ploy­ers have con­sis­tently told us the big­gest is­sue they face in grow­ing their busi­nesses and im­prov­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity is the avail­abil­ity of skilled staff.

We need a skilled work­force with the knowl­edge to adapt, in­no­vate and grow our econ­omy.

Higher lev­els of education lead to higher in­comes. Higher in­comes lead to a higher tax re­turn for the Govern­ment. In turn that leads to a stronger econ­omy and an im­proved stan­dard of liv­ing for all New Zealan­ders. It’s a win, win, win.

As a coun­try we can’t af­ford not to pre­pare our­selves and our chil­dren for the fu­ture.- Iain LeesGal­loway is Labour’s spokesper­son for Work­place Re­la­tions and Safety, and for Im­mi­gra­tion

Our plan will al­low any New Zealan­der to un­der­take three free years’ of post school education.

PHOTO: FAIRFAX NZ

Fi­nanc­ing es­sen­tial ter­tiary level train­ing can be a daunting chal­lenge.

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