Fri 9 Mar 2018

What's WITT worth

News out this week that Otago Polytechnic “is pumping nearly $300million into Dunedin's economy each year” prompted an obvious question: what is the value of WITT to Taranaki?

The answer can be found in a report released last May.

Infometrics produced an economic impact assessment which discussed what Taranaki would not get if it did not have WITT operating in the region.

It estimated the loss in revenue spend in the province could be as high as $173 million, and also examined the social impact of not having the polytech in New Plymouth.

If WITT were not present in the region, “there would be substantial social and community costs associated with the lack of opportunity for adult learners to become involved in the community…”

The report said estimated gross domestic spending without WITT in and around New Plymouth would be reduced by between $44.8 to $63.2 million and the lost revenue spend in the area would be in the range of $117.3m to $170 million. Infometrics estimated 615 to 910 full-time equivalent jobs could be lost in the district

The impact on South Taranaki would be an estimated GDP spend reduction of $0.7m to $1.1 million, lost revenue spend   $1.9m to $3.2million and the loss of 10-15 full-time equivalent jobs.

“The overall long-term economic rationale for investment in skills at a regional level through an ITP [Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics] like WITT, are clear,” the WITT Economic Impact Assessment report noted.  

“Having appropriate skills, education and training at a regional level ensure that, when opportunities arise, people can take advantage of them. Moreover, a highly skilled labour force is more resilient to change, and can successfully transition between jobs and careers as the labour market and employment conditions change.

“From a macroeconomic sense, the provision of education and training locally contributes to economic growth by ensuring that the likelihood of skills shortages is mitigated, increasing the volume of trade, and promoting innovation through the dissemination of research and technology.

“The key benefits of providing the opportunity for individuals to obtain qualifications at a regional level are that they increase the chances of individuals to gain employment, and can potentially enhance their skills, productivity and wages.  Education and formal qualifications signal to employers an individual’s ability, and can allow individuals to earn more as they use their skills to enhance their productivity.

The report said without WITT Taranaki would experience a greater outflow of 20-24-year-olds as students moved to other cities to pursue tertiary studies.

It noted WITT was the only provider in Taranaki offering youth guarantee programmes.

Without WITT it was likely that youth who did not engage in school would not seek alternative education.

“Instead, young people might go directly into employment, leave the region to seek opportunities elsewhere (employment or education) or become disengaged.”

The report said research also shows that upskilling locals provide a sustainable supply of educated professionals, reducing dependence on outside talent.

 “Further, higher education is correlated with greater civic engagement, a core element of a functioning society” …while linkages back to Maori culture, combined with pedagogical understandings of teaching and employment, allowed for greater understanding and respect of local customs.