Election 2023: Chris Hipkins announces apprenticeship boost scheme to be permanent if re-elected

Labour's second election policy is to make a successful apprenticeship scheme permanent.

It follows the announcement on Saturday it wouldn't make any adjustments to the Superannuation eligibility age if it is re-elected at the October 14 general election.

The Apprenticeship Boost was introduced as a temporary measure at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to help employers with the training of employees. Employers get $500 a month per apprentice for a maximum of 24 months.

It was meant to finish in December 2024, but will now become a permanent part of the tertiary education system. It is expected to cost $420 million over four years.

"Apprenticeship Boost works," said Labour leader Chris Hipkins. "It’s helped deliver a 61 percent increase in the number of apprentices over the last three years and supported over 57,000 tradespeople to help fill labour shortages."

From 2019 to 2022, the number of apprentices aged 24 years or younger increased by 45 percent, while the increase for Māori was 71 percent and for Pacific Peoples 97 percent. The jump for women over this period was 112 percent.

The majority of apprentices are in building, followed by electrical engineering, automatic engineering, mechanical engineering and human welfare.

Chris Hipkins making his announcement on Sunday.
Chris Hipkins making his announcement on Sunday. Photo credit: Newshub.

Hipkins said businesses need certainty from the Government "that we will partner with them".

"It's a win-win. Labour’s support for apprentices is in stark contrast to National. Following the global financial crisis, National stood back and let apprenticeship numbers plummet.  

"As a result of National’s short-sighted approach New Zealand was left with a skills shortage we’re only now starting to get on top of."

Hipkins said training more Kiwis creates opportunities and good jobs and reduces reliance on offshore workers to plug skill shortages.

"Immigration remains important, but we shouldn’t have to rely on getting the skills we need from overseas."

When the policy was first introduced, employers were eligible for $1000 per month in support for their first year, and $500 per month for second-year apprentices. But that first year payment was halved last year.

To be eligible, an apprentice must be actively training towards a New Zealand Apprenticeship or Managed Apprenticeship approved by the Tertiary Education Commission.

Making the policy permanent is the second election policy from Labour.

On Saturday, deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni announced Labour wouldn't make changes to the Superannuation scheme eligibility age of 65 if re-elected. That's different to National, which wants to raise the age to 67 by 2044.

Sepuloni also said the Government would continue contributing to the Super fund and maintain Winter Energy Payments.