Wed 6 Mar 2019

A brave new world

In my first month as WITT’s chief executive, I am in the privileged position to be involved in a major reform of tertiary education in New Zealand. When the Minister of Education, Hon. Chris Hipkins released the Reform of Vocational Education proposals he launched a consultation process which is open to all and will run until March 27.

At its core, the proposal is to consolidate the current 16 Institute of Technologies and all Industry Training Organisations of New Zealand into single entity that is empowered to provide the very best vocational education and training to students whether they be full or part-time, in work or out of work, all of which would be supported by the best learning resources that technology can provide.

Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics, and Industry Training Organisations, have all failed to give New Zealand the vocational education and training system that it deserves and this proposal has the potential to change this in a way that serves both country and regional aspirations.

There have been suggestions that the reform will penalise some for the “failings of others” and that it will be an attack on regional education assets. I reject that philosophy. This should not, and must not, become a parochial defence of the indefensible! This needs to be a genuine and holistic endeavour to raise New Zealand Incorporated skills, via a system, now and into the future.

The New Zealand economy needs a productivity increase through vocational training. As the Minister noted, “at a time when we’re facing critical skill shortages, too many of our polytechnics and institutes of technology are going broke”.

I support the framework presented by Minister Hipkins, and I do not see this as a case of having to fight to prevent WITT losing out – but we do need to emphasise our needs so we can do more for our people, our iwi and our industries.

It was encouraging to hear Business NZ Chief Executive Kirk Hope welcome changes that ensure learners are able to step into jobs “where we have businesses in desperate need for staff”.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was clear on this in her State of the Nation address ahead of the release of the document. She said: “businesses are facing a constant struggle finding the people with the right skills at the right time to do the jobs that need to be done”.

She spoke of the economy being too reliant on buying skills through immigration. The answer is to develop the skills within our own people and ensure the skills we teach match the needs of industry.

That is what the tertiary education reforms are designed to do, and that is good news for WITT and great news for Taranaki.


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