Counting the cost of training

by Andy Bryenton

With news that student loan debtors are resigning themselves to never being able to return to New Zealand from overseas, and the revelation that the top 10 individual student loans on the government’s books top $4 million in value, changes to the way students pay for their qualifications have been met with interest. Such changes are also altering how people look at their career paths.

While academic tertiary education is still a goal for many school leavers, and a vital function for training professionals in many important fields, the resurgence in apprenticeships, driven in part by changes to the way on-the-job training is paid for, are filling the gap in our practical trades. The government has rolled into election year touting the success of its first year fees-free programme in universities and technical institutes, with the possibility of a second-year being added on post-election, should the incumbent coalition remain in power.

However, that two-year threshold is already in place for many apprenticeships. Additionally, some employers are willing to give successful apprentices an advance on fees for years three and four, with the option to pay the advance back from wages once fully qualified.

It’s seen as a win-win by tradespeople, who can assess the competence and character of an apprentice during those first two years. Conversely, young learners can get a feel for an industry fees-free, and decide if it’s the right one to make their life long career. According to apprenticeship programme provider BCITO:

“Doing an apprenticeship is a lot cheaper than other forms of study because you earn a wage while learning on-site. The cost of your apprenticeship depends on your choice of trade. The government’s fees-free policy came into effect on January 1 2018. So, if you’re thinking of enrolling in a building and construction apprenticeship, you may be eligible to have your first two years of training fees paid by the government.”