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  • Sat, 23, May, 2020 - 5:00:AM

The government retraining scheme needs to cater for all

I’m scared of hammers. It’s embarrassingly ridiculous, but it’s true. Over the past year or so, I’ve surprised myself by completing a few DIY projects (building a planter box perhaps being my greatest achievement to date), and occasionally I’ve needed to use a hammer. Every time I bring it down however, I can’t stop the anxious feeling that I’m about to break a finger. I know, I know – I’m letting the team down. 

You have probably gleaned by now that I’d make a terrible construction worker. While I enjoy pottering about with handheld drills and paintbrushes at home, I’d be useless on a construction site. While there are plenty of women who would make excellent tradies, I’m unfortunately not one of them. So infrastructure construction isn’t likely to be an industry I’ll ever go into.

If you’re wondering where this is all going, bear with me. Confessing my humiliating uselessness when it comes to simple tools does have a point. The recently announced “rebuilding together” budget features a staggering amount of money dedicated to new training. The level of investment is positive, but the announced targeting may have missed a few key opportunities.

Currently, the fund for retraining will open up free training to people of all ages in the areas of building and construction, agriculture, manufacturing, community health, counselling and care work. I have no doubt that many people will happily take up the training in those areas, and the resulting extra workforce will be an asset to New Zealand. 

I wonder, however, whether IT should be on that list (to encourage digital innovation and entrepreneurship in an increasingly digital world) and whether a small amount of the funding should be ring-fenced for other areas. I completely understand the macro approach, especially at a time when unemployment is due to soar and ministries are scrambling to prepare for the influx of New Zealanders requiring state support, but somewhere amongst the chaos I hope that officials are preparing a small selection of other options, for people for whom working in building, construction, agriculture, manufacturing, community health, counselling or care work isn’t a good fit for their skill sets and passions.

How about, for example, a contestable fund that enables free training for a small number of successful candidates in areas like music therapy, specific education roles and other niche, but needed careers. And if an organisation was willing to sponsor a student by guaranteeing them employment for a year post-graduation, then perhaps the contestable fund could be used for training in other areas.

There may well be schemes like this that are either already part of the government’s education support programme or that are yet to be announced, but if so, I’d like to see more visibility around them so people facing the difficult situation of losing their job and being forced to retrain have all the options at their fingertips. 

A lot of the COVID response has had to follow a “one size fits all” approach, and rightly so. As we face the rebuild, however, I hope that we’re able to build nuance into the system so that those that don’t fit the mould aren’t left behind.

There are plenty of useful, important jobs out there; whether they involve hammers, pencils or tambourines.


  • COVID-19 /
  • Jobs /
  • Employment /
  • Careers /
  • Retraining /
  • Budget 2020 /
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