Fri 7 Dec 2018

Leaders back WITT

Taranaki’s leading local body politicians have sent a joint letter to education minister Chris Hipkins which underline WITT’s value to the province.

The letter, signed by mayors Neil Holdom (New Plymouth), Neil Volzke (Stratford) Ross Dunlop (South Taranaki) and Taranaki Regional Council leader David MacLeod, outlines the Polytech’s far-reaching involvement education and business.

It was prompted by news reports that the minister was conducting a series of reviews in the polytechnic sector.

“We believe it is imperative that the views of our Councils and the Taranaki community are gathered and taken into account during any review. Are you able to confirm that these views will be sought during a review please?” the letter asks.

The civic leaders wrote: “the community we represent has an ongoing need for the training WITT provides, particularly in support of our business and engineering sectors as we work towards the demanding transition to a low-carbon energy future.

“Our Councils believe it is essential WITT continues to play this role in the development of Taranaki as a locally governed training institute committed to the specific and long-term upskilling requirements of the Taranaki community.”

They said WITT had developed strong and unique links with iwi, schools and employers, had recently embarked in a new commercial direction and was bucking national trends by increasing its international student component.

They also pointed to a focus on Maori success rates.

“WITT has the confidence of NZQA and the TEC having carried out a wide and in-depth review of its activities over the past two years, led by a refreshed council that understands the specific needs of its community.

“The institute caters for thousands of students, offering 60 qualifications, and through its close community associations has celebrated significant successes in improved results across the board.

 “Through its links with organisations like Taranaki Futures, it has inspired dozens of secondary school students to seek apprenticeships in the building industry.  

They said the Tapuae Roa: Make Way for Taranaki regional economic development strategy and action plan was developed in partnership with the Taranaki Mayoral Forum, lwi, Venture Taranaki, the business community and Central Government and recognised WITT as a critical part of the Talent, Enterprise and Innovation Foundation to support a successful Taranaki economy.

“WITT has a major role to play in innovation and enterprise hubs around the region, working with business in Taranaki to ensure our people have access to the right training for employment and the leadership required for a ‘Just Transition’."

As far back as February this year the Minister was quoted as saying the country needed a system that was inclusive and could adapt to the needs of the modern world.

In late September it was reported that seven of the country's polytechnics and institutes of technology were at a high financial risk and 10 were expected to have deficits. The government is developing a new system for organising and funding polytechnics and has indicated that it wants the 16 institutions to work together as a system.

WITT’s acting chief executive Lyal French-Wright said it was warming to hear the words from the council leaders, and they were consistent with messages he was receiving from the community.

“We also acknowledge that change is inevitable in education, and similarly, it is inevitable that it will involve a review of the tertiary education landscape.”