Industry opposes government training reforms

The government’s proposed plan to change the way New Zealand handles on-the-job trainees and apprentices has been met with industry resistance, with 148 businesses, encompassing tens of thousands of employees, signing an open letter in opposition to the plan.

McDonalds, RetailNZ, and Mitre 10 are among the organisations that have signed the letter, which urges education minister Chris Hipkins to take a second look at the reforms.

Under the proposed change, the responsibility for trainees and apprentices would be shifted from industry-owned and -governed training organisations (ITOs) to polytechnics and other vocational providers.

“Industry trainees and apprentices are workers whose training is part of their employment. Their training has to be organised around their workplace, or it doesn’t work,” Josh Williams, Industry Training Federation chief executive, said.

“We don’t believe a compelling case has been made for removing the role for industry-owned bodies to manage and support industry trainees and apprentices.”

The letter points out that industry training is the largest and most cost-effective part of the vocational education sector, with 11 ITOs working with 25,000 employers to train 146,000 New Zealanders per year – almost 60 per cent of all vocational education in the country.

According to Williams, vocational providers won’t be able to support fast-moving segments of the workforce, and while employers will still train staff, they will not have credits of qualifications to show for it, making them less resilient in the workforce.


New Zealand’s on-the-job training system leads the OECD for participation. Its effectiveness comes down to the input that businesses provide through ITOs, ensuring skills development is updated regularly and matches industry needs.

“Now is not the time to pull the pin on our industry-led training and apprenticeship system. New Zealand’s strong performance suggests we should be focusing on ways to grow or numbers, and support many more New Zealand employers to train and qualify our workforce,” Williams said.

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