Thu 8 Nov 2018

Good forecast for WITT

Acting Chief Executive Lyal French-Wright says three weeks in the hot seat had been long enough to demonstrate to him the significant advances WITT has made in the last couple of years - and he is giving its future a vote of confidence.

Lyal – who has temporarily stood down as a WITT councillor - is holding the reins during the search for a full-time replacement for Barbara George, who has started work in Christchurch as CE of The Court Theatre.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has signalled he will soon release his “Roading 2020” report, looking at the future landscape of tertiary education, and regardless of what findings the report contains, Lyal is confident WITT will continue to exist and be a major player in a prosperous future for the region.

“WITT is showing itself to be nimble and innovative by looking ahead to ensure it matches the identified employment needs in Taranaki and further afield,” he says.

His own diary would appear to underline the broad reach of WITT in Taranaki.

In his short time in the role he has joined WITT executives at a series of events which are supported by the polytech – most recently a review last night of the Taranaki Science and Technology Fair and the ETC Engineering & Electrical Apprenticeship Awards.

He has also sat in on one of the public WITT lectures, listened to former New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd discuss racism with WITT nursing students and attended the TSB Taranaki Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards.

“One of our most important tasks is to build and maintain a strong relationship with employers,” he says. “We are here to serve the ongoing needs of the community and to do that successfully we must know the community’s needs and aspirations intimately.”

He applauded the Government’s announcement that performance-linked funding is to be removed from a very complex funding model.

“Performance linked funding did little to improve outcomes and in our view, there are more than enough checks and balances in place.”

WITT’s major challenge is to increase revenue by increasing enrolments in appropriate courses – both government funded and participant funded courses.

Ironically, enrolments across the sector have fallen as a consequence of unemployment rates dipping under four per cent.

“A number of young people are entering the workforce without qualifications because they have not completed their courses, or, in some cases, not even started,” WITT’s acting chief said. “But a highly skilled workforce is vital and we need to capture the training needs of employers on an ongoing basis.”

Lyal said that WITT had cause to celebrate its international student numbers which, against national trends, have increased from 135 last year to 182 now.

“That is a consequence of having in an exceptional recruitment team, quality courses and first-rate pastoral care.

“Small polytechs like WITT can be disadvantaged because of a lack of scale in certain areas – but hugely advantaged in the wrap around care that all students get to succeed.”

He said the WITT council was well advanced in its search for an “exceptional leader” to take the institute through changes which were inevitable in the sector and ensure it remained the premier place for Taranaki people to train for a job, or to keep abreast of ongoing needs in their industry.

It is expected a new chief executive will be installed by February or March.


Pictured: Lyal French-Wright