Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My letter to John Key, the prime minister of New Zealand

Dear Mr Key

I am writing because of my concern for the young people trying to get trade qualifications in New Zealand, and in particular Christchurch.

My son is 21 years old. He did a Level 4 pre-apprenticeship Certificate in Carpentry last year at Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin (2010). He has been unable to get a carpentry apprenticeship in Dunedin. Five weeks ago he moved to Christchurch. He has managed to get work as a hammer hand working for a staff agency. He is currently earning 20 cents above minimum wage. He is having to completely support himself because he has no-one to live with in Christchurch; run a car which he needs to get to work, and pay off his $6000 student loan. He has been told that he can have an apprenticeship with the company he is currently working with, but he has to pay for it.

We know that Christchurch is going to need quality builders in many years to come. The CEO of Otago Polytechnic, Phil Ker, told me that he is being asked by the Ministry of Education to fast track carpentry training. But I am left with real concerns about what happens to the young people once they have their education but no apprenticeship.

Therefore, my questions to you are:

* how is the government going to support young people to obtain apprenticeships so that they can effectively contribute to the re-building of Christchurch?
* how is the government going to support builders to provide apprenticeships?
* what is the government going to do to protect young people from staff agencies and building firms in Christchurch who are out to exploit them by paying them minimum wage and using them as "slave labour"?

My son and young people like him are the future of New Zealand. I feel very strongly that this is an issue that we must deal with urgently or we will be losing him and others like him to Australia where we know he'll get an apprenticeship and be paid a decent wage while he does it.

Look forward to your reply


starpath said...

A young man (22) I know has recently qualified as a Master Builder in Christchurch. In a new job, they would not pay him properly and now he is very very happy because he has gone to Western Australia to earn over A$160,000 with a one year contract, after which this will be reviewed and he is likely to get more. His mother is delighted. As you say this is very sad indeed for New Zealand but for young people with skills this may be fortunate.

Sarah Stewart said...

At the moment my son is taking home just under $300 for a 40 hour week. Out of that is $100 on rent and nearly $100 on petrol. That leaves barely $100 for food, electricity etc. I am seriously concerned about how he's going to manage.

Sarah Stewart said...

It's just dawned on me...he's going to have no spare money to buy his contact lens, repair the car it needs work, pay for his warrant or registration, go to the doctor if he needs to. He's going to be in the mire if he gets a week with no work or gets sick. And he certainly won;t be able to afford a holiday or even come back to Dunedin for a visit. Looks like we're going to have to subsidize him for a while. He certainly isn't going to be able to fall in love and think about getting married.