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Government boosts apprenticeship funding, eyes immigration changes for better workforce

Wednesday 9th November 2016

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The government has lifted funding for new apprenticeships and is looking at ways to reduce the country's reliance foreign workers as it prepares to adjust immigration policy settings to try to make the workforce better. 

Ministers Steven Joyce and Michael Woodhouse today updated the 'Building Skilled and Safe Workplaces' chapter in the government's Business Growth Agenda outlining a series of initiatives to develop the nation's labour market and raise productivity. Among those was an increase in the apprenticeship target to have 50,000 in training by 2020, which attracted an extra $10 million on top of what was announced in the budget to add 1,400 places next year. 

The chapter describes a new sector workforce engagement programme where the government has engaged with the building, tourism, dairy, horticulture/viticulture, and transport industries to try and match skilled staff to local employers, with a priority on New Zealanders in lieu of immigration. 

At the same time, the chapter signals a government review of immigration policy over the next year will seek to "to improve the long-term labour market contribution of temporary and permanent migration", name-checking temporary work settings to increase incentives for firms to hire and train locals, and skilled migrant settings to give priority to higher-skilled and higher-paid migrants. 

Immigration Minister Woodhouse's reduced planning range for residence approvals and higher barriers to skilled migrants announced last month were a precursor to the latest review, and came at a time when the record inflow of net migration was blamed for driving up house prices in Auckland, where there's a shortage of supply, while at the same time keeping a lid on wages due to a larger workforce. 

The government also announced two new Auckland jobs and skill hubs with the release of the chapter, which are partnerships with local government, businesses, tertiary and training organisations to provide wraparound services where large projects create job opportunities. 

The chapter comes after the opposition Labour Party released the results of its two-year 'Future of Work Commission', which unveiled a raft of policy proposals to deal with the changing nature of the labour market.

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