“For the kaimahi and board at WITT it’s not about the institute or the buildings - it’s the people. We know tertiary education makes a difference to individuals, whānau and community and over 50 years we’re proud to have touched the lives of thousands of people in the region” says WITT Chief Executive John Snook.
WITT, formerly known as Taranaki Polytechnic, opened its doors on 1 February 1972 and became the 13th technical institute in New Zealand. At that time around 10 programmes were on offer including trades, technician and professional courses, shorthand typing and dairy farming. At the time the dairy farming course was the only one of its type incorporating industry placement training.
“From the start, WITT has taken its lead from the region and its people. From offering placement-based dairy farming courses in the seventies to working with industry and training people to work in renewable energy today,” says Snook.
Now 50 years on WITT offers more than 65 courses, including three bachelor degree programmes and a postgraduate diploma, and industry placements and practical based learning is at the heart of teaching.
The genesis for a polytechnic in Taranaki dates back to 22 May 1903 when the New Plymouth Technical College opened at the site of Central School. It was later moved to Liardet Street in 1907 and catered to those who never completed their secondary education.
In 1970 the Education Department purchased 16 acres of land in Bell Street from NPBHS and on 1 February 1972 Taranaki Polytechnic opened its doors. The Bell Street site we know today opened on 10 June 1976 with specialist facilities for art, dressmaking, hairdressing, typing and secretarial studies and labs for chemistry, physics, biology and electrical studies.
In 1992 the South Taranaki campus was opened on Union Street in Hāwera and in 2001 the Taranaki Polytechnic was renamed “Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki” (WITT).
“Our history has been dotted with change over the last 50 years including reacting to changes in regional workforce demands, expectations and needs and national and international change, but feeding work-ready graduates back out into the region and upskilling the workforce has remained a constant throughout this time,” says Snook.