Monday, 20 August 2007

Apprenticeships: Not achieved

Tradesmen are the workers of the world. Successful tradesmen are the lifeblood of an industrial economy; their intelligent labours make possible the production and infrastructure without which there is no industrial economy.

New Zealand has too few tradesmen, too few apprentices and the number is getting fewer. Traditional apprenticeships were killed off by the so called "seamless education" promoted by Lockwood Smith's NCEA, and Labour's so called "Modern Apprenticeships" have signally failed to fulfil the headline promises of posturing politicians.

Last year it was revealed for example that only 11 percent of the students who passed their National Certificate in Politically Correct Plumbing managed to subsequently pass a genuinely testing examination that was set by the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board.

And this morning's Press reveals [hat tip Whale Oil] that even those students who start these "Modern Apprenticeships" are mostly failing to finish.
Figures made public suggest [only] 46 per cent of those enrolled in 2001 and 2002 completed their training in the expected four years.
A calculation that's beyond most NCEA graduates reveals that 54 percent of those starting these apprenticeships failed to finish. That's pathetic. "More than $100 million has been committed to [Labour's "Modern Apprencticeship" scheme] since its launch in 2000," yet "as at December 31, [only] 9466 active modern apprentices were in training," and barely 3000 had completed their training.

That really is pathetic. Unemployment among sixteen- to seventeen-year-olds is at fourteen percent; loads of youngsters are heading off to uni to get degrees in "visual communications design," "contemporary cultural studies," and "critical education theory." Meanwhile, the country's employers are crying out for skilled tradesmen. Has anyone idea where they're going to come from, or how it's possible to interest youngsters in learning about good tradecraft instead of bullshit?

Perhaps it might encourage them if they learned that New Zealand's richest man started out in life as an apprentice panel beater?

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Matt Burgess said...

What I don't understand is if there is a shortage of tradesmen, why the shortage persists. Having to wait for a tradesman is a fairly common experience, but I don't understand why wages don't increase to compensate. Tradesmen still strike me as very cheap. Higher wages will stimulate supply.

I very much doubt there is reason to be concerned, this looks like it should be a normally functioning labour market. Its possible that apprenticeships attract less subsidy per head than university, but that seems unlikely with the huger money and small numbers going through that PC points out.

Trevor Loudon said...

Matt-there is every reason to be concerned. Government policy stuffed the aprenticeship system 15 years ago. Many senior tradesmen have retired, quit, or moved of the shop floor in that time. There is consequently a huge "skills gap".

Understand this-it is government meddling that has stuffed trades training and it is government meddling that is making the problem worse.

This will have huge economic, safety and quality implications down the track.