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Budget 2021: Govt backs digital skills training for small & medium businesses

Fri 21 May 2021

Budget 2021 has announced a $44 million investment over two years to support the ongoing Digital Boost business programme for New Zealand’s small and medium businesses (SMBs).

According to Small Business Minister Stuart Nash, many SMBs struggle to embrace new digital tools because their focus is on their core business.

He says small businesses play a key part in the country’s economic recovery. “This programme delivers on our manifesto commitment.”

In addition to the continued funding of the Digital Boost programme, the Labour Government will also provide digital business advisory services to assist graduates from the Digital Boost programme. These advisory services include training, advice and support and will be delivered by the private sector.

Nash says, “The Digital Boost Training Programme will assist 30,000 SMEs, and the new advisory service will support 15,000 SMEs to change their businesses per year. It will grow the digital skills and capabilities of the workforce, improve productivity and create more resilient businesses.

“Greater adoption of digital skills and processes will help businesses and their staff to keep working safely through potential future disruptions or civil defence emergencies.”

He also points to the benefits of digital commerce, which can drive wage and productivity growth, lower the carbon economy, and build the New Zealand brand as a place to live, invest, trade, visit, and do business.

The Government states that its investment in the SMB sector has been extensive. Investments have included the wage subsidy, interest-free loans, free business advice through the Regional Business Partners network, grants and loans for tourism businesses, resurgence support payments for alert level changes, the flexi-wage, the leave support scheme, apprenticeship boosts, and a wide range of tax changes affecting depreciation, low value assets, and provisional tax thresholds.

Commenting on the budget, Rackspace technology business development manager Matt House says, “The Labour Government’s pledge of $44 million for a digital skills programme is a welcome boost that will enable Kiwis and homegrown businesses to benefit from new tech.”

He says that New Zealand is recognised as one of the world’s top digital economies and is highly ranked as one of the easiest places in the world to do business.

“We need to change the perspective of where digital skills stand and could stand in regards to business growth in New Zealand. To effectively scale and be on the world stage, we need to equip our people with the skills they need to compete—and succeed—in an evolving digital environment.  

“However, we hope this is only the start. It’s about time we take digital skills seriously and inject the funding needed to grow our talent, support businesses, and become a globally leading digital economy.” 

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