July 22, 2009

A positive from the Job Summit

I was about to post a few months ago about the cut to $98 Million of postgraduate scholarships in the budget, but the moment seems to have passed. I was amazed with the lack of foresight by the Government - what better way to come out of a recession than to up skill and come out hitting the ground running, but they chose instead to stunt the development of NZ's next generation of young scientists by cutting funding in this area.

But here's one positive that's come out of the Job Summit a few months back. I haven't heard of many, but I am pleased about this one. It goes some of the way to making up for the loss of the said $98 Million dollars worth of cuts to scholarships.

The Foundation for Research Science and Technology (FRST) has announced a pilot scheme that will see 150 new internships created in industry, with the FRST providing salary contribution of up to $30,000 for a period of 9 months.

This is a great way to encourage industry to innovate and build linkages with universities. I think this is crucial in the development of NZ's knowledge economy, and the success of the model is evidenced by the emergence of the Finnish powerhouse, Nokia, out of a successful network of inventors who were trained in Finland's own university system and had strong linkages with industry.

If you are in business, I would love to hear your thoughts on this new initiative. What is your R&D capability currently like, and would you be willing to take on a young science and technology graduate if their salary was met halfway by the Government?


  1. As far as I know the cutting of the $98 million was the first step in downsizing/removing the TEC. Which is an overpopulated quagmire of bureaucracy. Hopefully this is true and National are just removing the funding for the time being so they can construct a better system that is more suited to their policy (which, lets face it, is better for scientists, unless you're in Ag research that is...)

  2. Here's hoping. And maybe it was an easy cut to make considering the current "financial climate". Hopefully the result is more balanced right through the spectrum from graduate-postgraduate-postdoc-employment. Which this may be the beginning of. I think internships are a win-win, the student gets experience, the employer gets cheap R&D and gains trust in university research. Only problem is we don't have much industry here in NZ to call on...

  3. While it does seem a shame to cut funding for upskilling those that already have significant quals under their belt, surely due to the small industry you speak of in your comment after your post, it makes sense to direct funding at those needing training for our skill sets as opposed to ongoing R&D. I know the two are almost hand in glove in certain sectors but something's got to give. While naturally it seems crazy to encourage tomorrow's leaders and innovators to look overseas to continue their upskilling, perhaps the government has faith that patriotism will encourage those very people to bring foreign ideas back to New Zealand in order to lead the nation further down the track. The upside is that the labourers and tradesmen of our country will continue to be supported. I think this was inevitable after the 90's surge of tertiary education losing its elitist status as trades training was neglected thus causing the skills shortage. The opening statement from the ITF Skills Dev. publication states that "now is the time to invest further
    in skills development and
    industry training to ensure we
    are ready for when the rest of the
    world returns to normal business"...further information can be found here, and is an interesting 'other side of the coin' argument to yours: http://www.itf.org.nz/

  4. A highly skilled trade industry is crucial to the development of a knowledge economy, as we will need a workforce capable of manufacturing advanced products that fetch a high price in world markets (from itf.org.nz, I pay specific attention to the ETITO and PAMPITO, in this respect). It is true that "something has to give" in this economic environment, and I just don't think the axing of postgraduate scholarships should have been it. Although this may have been the first step in downsizing the TEC, it is a loss of $98M nonetheless. Manufacturers are useless unless they have something to manufacture. IF the government IS leaving the training of our future innovators and leaders up to other countries in the hope that they eventually return, then we are in big trouble - research funding is so much more abroad, career paths are so more distinct than here in NZ, salaries are higher, infrastructure is better, the list goes on. That approach seriously smacks of NZ's lack of big picture thinking and risk taking, and I hope it isn't so.



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