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Opposition parties scorn Key's speech

Opposition parties are scorning Prime Minister John Key's state of the nation speech, describing it as a rehash of tired old ideas and policies.

Labour leader David Shearer says the centrepiece announcement of 14,000 more apprenticeships over the next five years is too little, too late.

"Apprenticeships have declined 20 per cent under National - the lack of apprentices is a direct result of four years of inaction," he said.

Mr Shearer says the government had previously announced its intention to change the Resource Management Act and cut red tape.

"The speech contained no fresh thinking or big ideas to get the economy back on track," he said.

"It's the same tired, hands-off approach that has delivered an unemployment rate of 7.3 per cent, stagnant growth and a housing affordability crisis."

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says the "underwhelming" speech lacked vision and repeated "faded old excuses".

She says there were 12,933 apprentices in 2009 and under National they had dwindled to 10,434 by the end of 2011.

"Blaming his failure on jobs and the economy on the previous government just doesn't cut it after four years," she said.

"It's no longer credible for Mr Key to blame his economic failures on the rest of the world when unemployment is rising here while it is steady or falling in most developed countries."

The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) says increasing the numbers of apprenticeships is a good start but 14,000 new places over five years is a drop in the bucket.

"In its last term the government cut $55 million from industry training and it's vital they reinvest significantly to upskill the workforce," said CTU secretary Peter Conway.

BusinessNZ says employers want quality apprenticeship training and it's important the schemes work well.

"More funding and focus on apprenticeships is the right approach," said BusinessNZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly.

"More overall funding, higher requirements for educational content and financial incentives to enter into apprenticeships are useful changes."