Tue 12 Mar 2019

Leaders challenged to influence reform

WITT chief executive John Snook has challenged Taranaki community leaders to focus on how the region would put the learner at the centre of their consideration.

Taranaki had been under-resourced in terms of vocational education for years, and it was important a semi-autonomous Regional Leadership Group addressed the issue, he said.

He was wrapping up a 90-minute session today (Tuesday) which discussed the Government’s revamp proposal, presented last month by education minister Chris Hipkins, to create one entity from  16 institutes of technology and polytechnics and a raft of Industry Training Organisations.

Noting it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for Taranaki to have a say in the first reforms to the sector since 1989, John Snook warned the minister would not accept the status quo “with some frilly bits”.

Speaking at the Novotel in New Plymouth, he discussed the pitfalls of the present competitive landscape for polytechnics, and the “bad incentives” it created.

“Some media stories have talked about good and bad polytechnics – but there is no ranking, we can all claim to be number one,” he said.

“More important is how we got to this situation after the 1989 changes. The minister is announcing changes because we couldn’t do it ourselves.”

He told his 40-strong audience, comprising iwi, industrial, educational and political leaders, he thought the Government’s vision was good.

“The more input we have to how it happens, the better.”

In a back to the future scenario, he also pointed to the Taranaki Polytech’s  1976 prospectus which showed a council made up of employer and employee representatives, school boards and local government – though iwi were scarcely acknowledged.

He later told WITT News that while the old model may have lacked in some areas, such as innovation, it represented the same groups which should contribute to a Regional Leadership Group playing an active role in skills delivery.

The 1976 prospectus also showed a Polytechnic which made trades training its priority – in the same way, WITT was now doing.

“We need to find a best of both worlds scenario.”

The breakfast session saw five groups set up to review key aspects of the proposals.

There was consensus for a need to change, but concern that while the model presented was sound, the plans did not come with funding proposals.

Questions were asked about the future of alternate education providers, what was meant by “local” and the level of young people “disengaging” from school.

John Snook said he hoped the community would provide a united voice in responding to the proposals.

WITT is proposing to submit a regional leadership statement to show a collective voice for Taranaki.

The Government has set a March 27 deadline for submissions to its Reform on Vocational Education.


Pictured: Liam Hodgetts, Group Manager, Strategy at New Plymouth District Council, in discussion with the deputy chair of WITT’s council Lyal French-Wright at today’s breakfast gathering.