Hey, we have some influence, but maybe not enough in the right circles to secure a share of $30,000 propaganda job

Because we fancy ourselves as “influencers”, here at Point of Order, we had high hopes of being invited to share some of the $30,000 lolly the government intends spending to publicise its apprenticeship programmes.

It was a very fleeting flight of fancy.  On almost immediate second thoughts we sensed that (a) our influence might not be as great as we like to suppose and (b) we might not be reaching the audience the government hopes to reach with whatever influence we can muster.

Even if we could reach the right audience with the necessary degree of influence, we would be bound to bridle at having to earn our money by getting into the propaganda business.

We would also cop criticism, probably, from a Taxpayers Union that is apt to rail against hypocrites who disapprove of troughers, but then accept goodies from a taxpayer-funded trough.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Education Minister Chris Hipkins yesterday drew attention to the troughing opportunity in question when they announced a campaign to raise the profile of vocational education and training (VET).

This was one of several announcements and a speech about infrastructural challenges posted on the Beehive website since Point of Order last updated readers on ministerial press statements.  Among them was news of:

  • The official opening of 82 new apartments in New Lynn as part of a government investment in public housing;
  • Confirmation of an in-principle agreement to purchase up to 5 million COVID-19 vaccines from Janssen Pharmaceutica;
  • Ninety-two jobs being created to help environmental restoration in the Waikanae River catchment through $8.5 million of Jobs for Nature funding;
  • A change in the oversight group for the new Dunedin Hospital Project;
  • Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor’s tribute to the winners of the 2020 New Zealand Biosecurity Awards.

But our interest mostly was focused on the campaign to raise the profile of vocational education and training.

“The first phase of the VET marketing campaign includes social media influencer activity targeted at school leavers and learners under the age of 25, and radio announcer adlibs aimed at starting meaningful conversations about vocational education and training in the community,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.

“The second phase of the campaign, set to begin next month, will include TV, radio and social media ads, digital displays and online videos.

Here’s hoping the influencers hired to spread the good word are less obfuscatory than Hipkins, who bemused us, here at Point of Order, by saying:

“We launched a $320 million free Targeted Training and Apprenticeship Fund (TTAF) which makes all apprenticeships, as well as, certificates, diplomas and programmes in targeted industries, free for New Zealanders of all ages from 1 July 2020.”

A $320 million free fund?  Tell that to the taxpayer (or whoever is lending us the money for these things nowadays).

Whatever the cost, it is targeted “towards industries where demand will continue to be strong as we recover from COVID-19”.

This means demand for trained workers, we suppose.

The Beehive statement noted that since all apprenticeships were made “free” in July this year, almost 14,000 new apprentices have started apprenticeships nationwide, up from about 7,500 in the same period in 2019.

Since July, more than 17,000 learners have begun TTAF programmes in industries critical to our economic recovery, compared with 12,800 learners enrolled in the same window in 2019.

The Government has also launched the $380 million Apprenticeship Boost fund which helps employers to retain and take on new apprentices, to help ensure New Zealand has a pipeline of skilled workers, and to avoid shortages in the future.

But hey.  There’s no mention in the statement about the $30,000 which (only momentarily, don’t forget) whetted our appetite for a slice of state funding.

That figure, and the nature of the dirty work to be done, comes from this news report:

The Government will spend $30,000 on contracting five New Zealand social media influencers to post about vocational training, in a bid to bolster the number of apprentices.     

The influencers will be required to post two original items on their social media accounts and respond to comments on the post.

It comes as part of the new vocational education and training (VET) plan, which aims to further bolster the number of apprentices in New Zealand.

The Taxpayers’ Union was quick to question why the Government is spending $30,000 of taxpayer money contracting five social media influencers to post about the Government’s so called ‘free’ vocational training.

“Subsidising social media performers, rather than journalism outlets is a real shame,” says Jordan Williams of the Taxpayers’ Union.   

“That money should be going to traditional or even social media whose results are measurable, and ethical standards apply.   

“Based on the choice of influencers, and their regular postings about the Prime Minister, there is a real stench that this decision wasn’t about value for money, but rather rewarding, or courting, ‘cool’ mates.”

Cool mates?

Hmm. That’s another reason for our being disqualified.

Here’s hoping the government spends billions of dollars on infrastructure more prudently than it is doing on publicising its training programmes.

A speech from the PM on building the country’s infrastructure was among the other government statements and speeches posted on The Beehive website since we last reported.  It was headed ReBuilding Nations Symposium 2020 (Infrastructure NZ Conference opening session) and focused on the last of five planks in the government’s plan to revive a Covid-struck economy .

  1. Investing in our people
  2. Job creation
  3. Supporting our small businesses
  4. Backing our exporters
  5. Preparing and investing in our future

Ardern referenced World Economic Forum data which showed New Zealand ranked first out of 141 economies for macroeconomic stability in 2019, third for the quality of our institutions and fifth for our labour market – but 46th for the state of our infrastructure.

Our infrastructure deficit has been estimated between $25.9 and $75 billion (such a widely disparate set of estimates that we are bound to question their worth).

An unhelpful regulatory environment, the funding constraints of an ever decreasing rating base in some of areas, a skills deficit, procurement issues, Resource Management Act impediments and the need for a pipeline of work to maintain capacity in the construction industry are among the challenges that led the government to create the Infrastructure Commission, to provide long term planning, and to work on the Construction Sector Accord to overcome some procurement issues.

The PM recalled that, in February, it announced the New Zealand Upgrade Programme (NZUP) and is investing $6.8 billion in transport projects to stimulate the economy.

It will also support a shift to greater transport choice by investing in public transport, roads and walking and cycling.

Then there’s the Auckland Transport Alignment Project, Let’s Get Wellington Moving, the increase in the National Land Transport Programme, the Education Growth and Redevelopment Programmes and the Health Capital Programme.

The New Zealand Defence Force has a $4.5 billion dollar capital programme.

The dubiously committed $30,000 for influencers at this juncture pales into insignificance.

In the housing sector the government is working to address both under supply, and inequality, and has committed to 18,000 additional public and transitional houses by 2024.

For local government, it has a $760 million investment in three waters to help councils upgrade water services across New Zealand

The PM also ticked off the COVID response programme and its investments in community infrastructure such as the Blenheim Library/Art Gallery, Kaikōura Aquatic Centre, and the Auckland City Mission’s New Ground building which will provide detox beds and housing.

Among business cases being developed are the NZ Battery Project (looking into how renewable energy can be stored for dry hydrological years and how the electricity grid can become 100% renewable energy).

Investigation of pumped hydro was a key recommendation of the Interim Climate Committee to help meet climate change goals (and create jobs for good measure).

The PM concluded:

All up, this amounts to a plan for infrastructure that demonstrates just how central it is to our rebuild, to our recovery, to building back better…

 So let’s get on with it. 

Latest from the Beehive

19 NOVEMBER 2020 

More public housing delivered in Auckland

The Government’s investment in public housing is delivering more warm, dry homes with today’s official opening of 82 new apartments in New Lynn …

Agreement advanced to purchase up to 5 million COVID-19 vaccines

The Government has confirmed an in-principle agreement to purchase up to 5 million COVID-19 vaccines – enough for 5 million people – from Janssen Pharmaceutica, subject to the vaccine successfully completing clinical trials and passing regulatory approvals in New Zealand, says Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods.

Jobs for Nature funding will leave a conservation legacy for Waikanae awa

Ninety-two jobs will be created to help environmental restoration in the Waikanae River catchment through $8.5 million of Jobs for Nature funding, Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan announced today.   

New Dunedin Hospital project progresses to next stage

The Government is changing the oversight group for the new Dunedin Hospital Project to provide more technical input, ensure continued local representation, and sharing of lessons learnt to benefit other health infrastructure projects.

18 NOVEMBER 2020   

Jump in apprentice and trainee numbers

The number of New Zealanders taking up apprenticeships has increased nearly 50 percent, and the number of female apprentices has more than doubled.

ReBuilding Nations Symposium 2020 (Infrastructure NZ Conference opening session)

Tena koutou katoa and thank you for the opportunity to be with you today.

17 NOVEMBER 2020  

New Zealand’s biosecurity champions honoured

Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor has paid tribute to the winners of the 2020 New Zealand Biosecurity Awards.

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