Giving New Zealanders the skills to succeed and the 44th Pacific Islands’ Forum

Prime Minister’s weekly column

National is committed to ensuring that all New Zealanders have the skills to succeed in modern life. We know this is an important step in building a more productive and competitive economy, and to deliver higher wages, better living standards, and the brighter future that you and your families deserve. This week, Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce announced the Government will be making all foundation education fees-free for people between the ages of 20 and 24. At the same time, we’re going to extend the Youth Guarantee Scheme to 18- and 19-year-olds. This means that from 2014, all New Zealanders under 25 will be able to access fees-free level 1 and 2 education courses – whether that’s in a Youth Guarantee programme, at a secondary school or with a tertiary education provider. Our changes are aimed at providing our students with the core foundational skills required to transition into higher level vocational study, training and employment. They’re part of National’s focus on giving all New Zealanders the opportunity to reach their full potential. In other news, this week I was in the Marshall Islands for the 44th Pacific Islands’ Forum. As a nation of the South Pacific, the Forum is an important annual event for New Zealand. It’s also a great opportunity to catch up with the other leaders in the region. This year, we covered a number of important topics, including climate change and clean water supply. New Zealand is committed to our role in the Pacific as a regional facilitator. We already deploy significant resources within the region to where they are most needed, and where we can make a real difference. With roughly 7 per cent of Kiwis being of Pasifika origin, New Zealand’s culture is greatly influenced by the Pacific. As a multicultural country, we benefit from the vibrancy added to society by our Pacific communities, and that is why we want to enable the Pacific region, and our Pacific communities here in New Zealand, to thrive. Next week with Parliament in recess, I’ll be travelling around the country to hear about and see first-hand some of the positive work underway in our local communities.