Who gets their hands 'dirty' in the knowledge society? Training for the skilled trades in New Zealand
The vision of New Zealand as a 'knowledge society' is a mantra that has opened the twenty-first century. Underpinning any 'knowledge society', however; are people who turn resources into concrete products and who build, maintain and service the technological and social infrastructure essential to society. This thesis examines the skilled trades and, in particular, how people are trained for those trades. Industry training is a crucial component of the wealth-generating capabilities of New Zealand. It is also an essential part of the way that many young people make the transition from school to work and from adolescence to adulthood. The means of training tradespeople has moved over the years from the rigid and prescriptive apprenticeship system, to the more voluntaristic, industry-led 'industry training' strategy, introduced following the Industry Training Act 1992. Regardless of the system used to organise training, however, there have been long-standing problems in New Zealand with achieving the optimum number of skilled workers, possessing the correct 'mix' of skills required. In this research, based upon semi-structured interviews with industry training stakeholders four industry case studies, policy content analysis and an in-depth examination of the Modem Apprenticeships scheme, I ask three key questions. First, what are the things that, as a country, we could or should reasonably expect a 'good' industry training system to contribute to? These may be things like: an adequate supply of appropriately skilled workers, the ability to upskill or reskill these workers as needed, clear transition routes for young people, lifelong learning opportunities, equity goals and foundation skills. Second, I ask how the current system performs against these criteria. The short answer is that the performance is 'patchy'. There are dire skill shortages in many areas. While opportunities for workplace upskilling, reskilling or 'lifelong learning' are available, I argue that they are not yet cemented into a 'training culture'. Workplace-based learning is an important transition route for a small percentage of our young people but the favoured route is some form of tertiary education, which may be an expensive and not necessarily relevant option. Third, I ask why the performance of New Zealand's industry training system is often less than desirable. My argument is that the problems and solutions thereof, of skill formation in New Zealand have been understood largely in terms of the supply-side. That is, we have either critiqued, or looked to reform, whatever system has been in place to train skilled workers. The inadequacy of this approach is evident from weaknesses in the ability of either the prescriptive apprenticeship system or the voluntaristic industry training strategy to deliver an appropriately skilled workforce. Thus, I also examine the demand side of skill formation: the wider influences that impact on employers' training decisions. Training decisions made by individual employers, the aggregation of which represent the level and quality of training for New Zealand as a whole, are influenced by a plethora of factors. At the micro level of the employer or firm, I explore barriers to training and some of the constraints to the demand for skills. I then examine broader influences, such as the changing shape of the workforce, labour market regulation and wider economic factors, all of which impact on training levels.... [Show full abstract]
Keywordsskill shortage; post-Fordism; New Zealand; occupational status; education and training; engineering industry; electrical industry; hairdressing industry; agriculture industry; Modern Apprenticeships; human capability framework; political economy; skill; apprenticeship; industry training; vocational education; human capital; skilled trades; youth transition; regulation approach
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