Watch: National's $250m skills package - money for tradies, training unemployed

Derek Cheng, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 28 Sep 2020, 1:04PM

Watch: National's $250m skills package - money for tradies, training unemployed

Derek Cheng, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 28 Sep 2020, 1:04PM

National Party leader Judith Collins wants to put $250 million over four years into a suite of measures for skills training, including retraining 30,000 unemployed people and helping 5000 tradies start their own business.

Collins made the retraining and skills policy announcement in Nelson today, following last night's Newshub Reid Research poll that had National on 29.6 per cent support.

"Central to this is SkillStart, a rapid retraining and job placement scheme, which will get displaced Kiwis into jobs quickly and provide a strong incentive for polytechnics, universities and private training providers to deliver short training courses," Collins said.

SkillStart would cost $120 million over four years, and is aimed to get 30,000 people back into work. Tertiary training providers would be eligible for $4000 for every unemployed person they retrain into fulltime work within a year.

New training courses would be approved within three months through a new, fast-tracked NZQA-approval process, she said.

"This fast-tracked process will only be available for existing providers with good track-records."

Programme length will range from three months to a year, with payment to providers conditional on the new employee keeping their job beyond the 90-day trial period, which National wants to re-introduce for all businesses.

National's policy also includes:

• Small Business Builder – a 12 week training and mentoring programme to provide 5000 experienced tradies with the skills they need to start a business.

• Small Business Accelerator, costing $20 million - a $5000 subsidy for at least 4000 small businesses for management training to help them generate jobs.

• Under 25 Job Coaches within WINZ offices to look to help intensive 'path to work' plans

• Skills and Jobs Hubs, costing $10m - to expand the National's model to match unemployed Kiwis with infrastructure jobs.

• Set targets to reduce the number of beneficiaries and the number of children in beneficiary households, and money management for those up to 25 who don't fulfil obligations to look for work

• Reversing the Government's vocational education reforms

It also includes aspects of National's previously announced tech policy: 1000 tertiary scholarships (costing $10m) per year targeted at students from low decile schools for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields; restore funding (costing $28m) to ICT graduate schools to boost the number of graduates; a Global PhD Scholarship programme (costing $12m) to recruit 50 top STEM PhD candidates from major universities each year to spend at least six months in New Zealand during their doctorate.

Labour has already announced its intention to put $300 million into a flexi-wage scheme - a wage subsidy to help employers hire those on a benefit and/or at risk of unemployment. Businesses would receive a subsidy of $7500 on average - and up to $22,000 - to hire unemployed New Zealanders.

This morning Collins joined local Nelson National MP Nick Smith for an announcement to rebuild earthquake-prone Nelson Hospital by 2028.

Smith said there had been some community frustration about a lack of certainty on the schedule to rebuild the hospital.

The Government is pushing ahead with the earthquake-strengthening of Bowen House in Wellington, which Smith said showed the usual propensity to look after their own ahead of other important buildings such as Nelson Hospital.

The tower and chimney of the hospital only met 20 per cent of the current earthquake standard, he said, and by law the building had until 2028 to meet the new standard.

Smith laid out National's timeline including community consultation next year, detailed designed work and costings the following year, consenting work in 2023 and construction from 2024 until 2027.

There was no certainty around the cost of the upgrade but it would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, he said.

The new hospital would have 200 beds, he said, or a third more than the current 149-bed capacity.

It would be on the current hospital site.

"We don't want to spend millions of dollars on bureaucrats exploring other sites."
National MP Nick Smith in Nelson with his car. Photo / Derek Cheng
National MP Nick Smith in Nelson with his car. (Photo / Derek Cheng)

The announcement follows a Newshub Reid Research poll last night that had National on 29.6 per cent, well behind Labour on 50.1 per cent.

National's result was up 4.5 percentage points from the previous Newshub Reid Research poll, which the party had dismissed as rogue.

Act was on 6.3 per cent, the Greens on 6.5 per cent and New Zealand First languished on 1.9 per cent.

This morning Collins visited Core Transport Technologies before heading to Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology.

She is finishing the day with a meeting with the local GreyPower chapter.