Depressing debts destroy Kiwi dream

Jenny Salesa – 

Happy New Year, Indian Newslink readers. I wish you all happiness and prosperity for 2016.

As we embark on the 2016 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, takes up an apprenticeship or goes on to study at university they will certainly face big fees and living expenses.

Big time trouble

Training for a career is both necessary and exciting, but the big loans and debt that most people will need to take out are hardly the stuff of the great Kiwi dream. And they will make all those other big life decisions – buying a house, marriage and having children – so much harder.

That is partly 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 that can take them nine, long years to pay.

Labour has been thinking hard and consulting widely about how to help New Zealanders, and this country, thrive and flourish in the new global economy.

Part of the solution we have found was announced by labour Leader Andrew Little in his State-of-the-Nation speech on January 31, 2016.

Working Futures

Our Working Futures Plan will offer three years of free, post-school, education to everyone who has never studied past high school before.

Under this Plan, all New Zealanders would be equipped to meet the changing face of work in the 21st century. Everyone would have the opportunity to learn and to achieve in life, without sacrificing their ability to own a home or establish a family.

Further, the nature of work is changing swiftly.

Research shows 46% of current jobs will either be vastly different or obsolete within as few as 10 to 20 years. The Working Futures investment in New Zealand’s skills and qualifications will ensure Kiwis can keep up with the evolving nature of work.

Since this offer would be available throughout your lifetime, your entitlement to free education could be used for re-training for the several career changes that are becoming part-and-parcel of the 21st century work experience.

Skills shortage

Working Futures is only part of Labour’s response to the crisis in skills shortages that is facing many industries, particularly in infrastructure, road transport and ICT, for example. Skill shortages can be a standard feature of an evolving economy but it is hugely important that governments respond positively to such challenges and adapt accordingly.

One of my goals as Spokesperson for Employment, Skills and Training is to see that apprenticeships properly valued and available, once again, to play a vital role in New Zealand’s skills and training environment and in driving economic growth.

Trades Training

I would like to enhance the relevance of trades training and apprenticeships, to see many more people upskilling, increasing well-paid, work-force participation.

The Government seems hell bent on ignoring the issues.

We cannot, which is why, Labour’s Working Futures Plan is all about investing in long-term lifetime learning.

This is the sort of investment a positive, future-looking government should be making. It’s a game-changer for the New Zealand economy, our society and our families.

Jenny Salesa is elected Member of Parliament from Manukau East and Labour Party Spokesperson for Employment, Skills and Training.

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