Everyone will need post-school qualifications

The students are back! As someone who came to Palmerston North to study, this is the time of year I reflect on my time in the city – 19 years now – and on how much has changed for students since I first arrived.

Our tertiary institutes certainly do a much better job of welcoming their new students these days. They take a genuine interest in the welfare of students and provide far more support to make sure students succeed. That’s important because, these days, high school qualifications just aren’t enough for most people to succeed in the modern job market and contemporary society. Virtually everyone needs some form of post-school qualification.

That doesn’t necessarily have to be a university degree. For too long we have tried to push too many young people into study that doesn’t suit them. Here in Palmerston North we are blessed with world-class tertiary educations providers of all kinds. Massey, UCOL, Te Wananga o Aotearoa, IPU and other private providers are all high-quality and leaders in their area of expertise.

Much is made of the importance of STEAM subjects – science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics – and for good reason, we do need to encourage more youngsters into those areas. But we also need trades people, skilled caregivers, health professionals and educators.

That’s why Labour has developed a new policy to provide 3 years of free post-school education to anyone who has not already started a tertiary qualification or apprenticeship. Long ago we accepted that everyone needed a high school education. Today everyone needs a bit more than that. It should be a right, not a privilege, to get the education you need. 

The future is uncertain but armed with a quality education and unencumbered by crippling debt our young people can face that future with confidence.