(File photo, Radio NZ)

The Bulletin: Apprenticeships to be free, skills shortages targeted

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Significant new support announced for trainees and apprenticeships, more level one detail coming, and long-delayed changes made to ETS.

Significant new support has been announced for trainees and apprentices, with thousands of dollars worth of costs being removed for each student. The funding, announced yesterday by education minister Chris Hipkins, is part of a wider budget allocation aimed at putting together a workforce capable of handling the Covid-19 recovery, and addressing wider areas of skill shortages. In effect, it will allow school leavers and anyone else needing work with the opportunity to get qualified in an area where there is a high likelihood of jobs being available. Free courses will be available for apprentices in all industries, and those in targeted industries will get additional support in the form of other fees being waived. The programme will be in place until 2022.

There’s an important bit of context to this funding being announced – during the GFC, apprentice training numbers dropped off alarmingly. That is covered up the top of this NZ Herald story on the announcement, and industry leaders feared that a downturn in business would have also meant a cut in the number of apprentices that could be taken on. Because employers will also benefit from the scheme, one estimate suggested hundreds of new places are already lined up to be offered.

The industries that will see targeted support include those directly related to primary industries and infrastructure. However, there are also several categories of community work that will benefit, such as youth work, elder care and mental health support. All have shortages, but in aged care the situation is particularly acute. Last year Radio NZ covered a union-led survey which found that the vast majority of caregivers had seen patient care suffer as a result of staff shortages.

The other piece of context – unemployment is rising by the day, and some of it is taking place in industries where jobs might not come back for a long time, if at all. Recent reporting from the NZ Herald showed that the pace of people joining the Jobseeker benefit had slowed in recent weeks, after some heavy spikes at the start of lockdown. However as the story notes, “this does not show the full picture of joblessness from Covid-19, because some people out of work cannot get a benefit if their partners are working.” As well as that, the first round of wage subsidy payments will end soon, which could lead to another rush of job losses. Some training providers are already looking to fill this void – for example, SIT in Invercargill are offering quick turnaround courses in agriculture and forestry for those who have lost work – a particular problem for the tourism heavy region around the Lakes District.


Just quickly, a message from The Spinoff’s managing editor Duncan Greive: 

“The arrival of Covid-19 and lockdown changed The Spinoff, transforming our editorial to focus on the biggest story of our lives, taking a small team and making it a seven day a week news operation. But it also fundamentally changed us as a business, too. Prior to the crisis, around 20% of our editorial costs were funded by our Members. Now, that figure is north of 50%. The loss of some key commercial clients meant that change has to be permanent. If you’re already a member, please know that all at The Spinoff are incredibly grateful for your help. If you’re not, and can afford to contribute, please consider doing so – it really is critically important to our ability to cover the next phase of the crisis, in all its complexity.”


We’ll get more detail today on what level one will look like, if and when we move into it. Keep an eye on our live blog for the announcement, and read Justin Giovannetti’s report on what is likely to be included. And as for the date of the move, that’ll be looked at by cabinet next Monday, amid calls for it to happen immediately. The PM said the timeline was about making a “balanced decision”, and that once the move to level one is made, the government doesn’t want to have to move the country back up to two again.


A long-delayed range of changes have finally been made to the Emissions Trading Scheme, and Newsroom’s Marc Daalder has a report with some useful context of it all. It was once the flagship piece of legislation for addressing climate change emissions, but now questions are being raised about whether it is really that useful at all. For example, only about 45% of the country’s emissions will be covered by the ETS, and some environmentalists argue that the cap on emissions is far too high to be meaningful. Climate change minister James Shaw acknowledged those concerns, noting that it was one part of a wider framework being put in place by the government, and that it would allow stronger climate action in the future.


The exemptions to get into the country for Avatar film workers are proving deeply controversial, especially when set against others not being granted. Politik has looked at the various cases currently swirling around, including an (on paper) fairly safe seeming fishing boat that requires repairs and has been denied entry in Nelson, and engineers from Israel who apparently can’t get in to work on the Ngawha geothermal plant. There may be an explanation for each particular case that makes sense, but taken together it’s hard to square – and to add a bit more friction, there have also been reports of the Avatar workers not quarantining properly. The NZ Herald reports just over 150 people have been granted entry as essential workers.


Unions have launched a push to get legal sick leave allowances doubled, reports Anna Bracewell-Worrall for Newshub. The legal allowance of five days a year is comparatively low by international standards, and many run out every single year. The CTU also wants to see the stand down period removed – the six months from starting a job until an employee is legally entitled to take sick leave, as well as expanding it to allow care for unwell children or relatives. The government has flatly refused to consider the matter, saying that it is up to employees to negotiate with their bosses.


Countdown supermarket workers will be given shares in the business as a bonus for working through the pandemic, reports Stuff. Around 14,400 employees will benefit, to the tune of about $800 NZD. It won’t be applied across the board – those who started after March 1, non-permanent staff and those who already received some other form of incentive will not be eligible. A lawyer quoted in the story suggested that it was a way for businesses to reward staff without having to give them cash up front. It’ll be interesting to see whether it will have any effect on wider industry demands for higher wages.


A couple of pieces of candidate selection news for Labour: Radio NZ’s Jo Moir reports the party’s Māori electorate MPs will be going back on the list, after coming off it in 2017 to make a harder run at the seven seats. The strategy worked, given that the aim was effectively to dump the Māori Party out of parliament altogether. And in the Manurewa electorate, sitting MP Louisa Wall has announced that she will not be contesting the party’s selection for the safe seat, after a strong challenger emerged in lawyer and former student union leader Arena Williams. Analysing that, the NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Audrey Young has described it as a “managed withdrawal” from Wall, who is likely to now be given a winnable list position.


Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Drop us a line at thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz

Steve Carell stars as General Mark Naird in Netflix’s laugh-free Space Force. (Photo: Netflix)

Right now on The Spinoff: Josie Adams went to Waitomo to see if the tourist town could survive the post-Covid downturn. Justin Giovannetti analyses the new enthusiasm in Wellington for government debt to fund stimulus spending. Jihee Junn has put together a photo essay on the BLM solidarity march in Auckland. I report on Donald Trump’s threat to deploy the military to quell the civil unrest sweeping through the US. Jean Teng reviews a new line in posh gourmet dog food. And Sam Brooks reviews the big new Netflix comedy Space Force, which unfortunately doesn’t seem to have achieved lift-off.


For a feature today, a look back at the earliest days of television in New Zealand. Radio NZ show Standing Room Only has spoken to the curator of a new exhibition about the first broadcasts, and how the medium developed further from there. It’s an audio piece, so better listened to rather than read – but here’s a short excerpt from the written article.

Curator Lisa Beauchamp told Standing Room Only the first night included an episode of Robin Hood, an interview with a ballerina and some live music featuring the Sir Howard Morrison Quartet. Just 13 staff delivered the first night’s content. “To think how far it’s come since then. It was a breakthrough moment and I think it really warrants recognition.”

All the footage of the first night has been destroyed but there is a lot of footage from a month later and other content from later in the year and during the decade, Beauchamp said. Researchers were working with TVNZ so they could include some in the exhibition.


My apologies to the Warriors and their fans – I missed marking the team’s triumphant return performance over the weekend. In their first game of the resumed NRL season, the Warriors managed to hold the Dragons scoreless, and ran away with a clinical 18-0 victory. In fact, the NZ Herald reports the Warriors set a competition record as the first team to complete 40 consecutive sets in a match. It’ll be fascinating to see if they can back a statement performance like this up in the coming weeks.


That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme



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