Concerns over power taken away from industry with vocational training shakeup

The head of New Zealand's industry training federation says a proposed shakeup of the vocational training sector will give the Government more power over something he claims industry knows best.

On Wednesday, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced the Labour-led Government intended to merge New Zealand's 16 polytechnics in an attempt to strengthen vocational education and attract more students as enrolments drop.

The move would also see industry training organisations (ITO), which coordinate on-the-job training for apprentices with employers, become partially redundant as the proposed New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology (NZIST) would take over responsibility for 140,000 Kiwi apprentices.

Josh Williams, the head of Industry Training Federation, was concerned that while industry figures and employers will still have some input into skill standards, ITOs will lose their managerial role.

He said they were still best placed to help apprentices due to the strong connections between ITOs and employers.

"We certainly think there is an irony that we are reading about the need to take time to build capability in [NZIST] to support on-the-job training and apprenticeships, when that capability exists now."

Mr Williams said the Government needed to extend its public consultation, which is due to end of March 27, to give ITOs the chance to consult with 25,000 employers.

"I certainly think employers need the opportunity to be genuinely consulted about who they would like to have control of that delivery [of skills]," he said.

But despite concerns about the final delivery model, Mr Williams said he backed the intent of the proposal.

"Congratulations to the Government [for] ensuring that industries standards are consistent no matter where they are delivered, and sorting out funding and equities between work-based and provider-based training."

He said the reforms were needed to ensure "effective provision for vocational education" and hoped it would stop comparisons between ITOs and polytechnics.

While polytechnics were having issues with enrolments, Mr Williams said the ITO part of the vocational training system has "been doing very well" and has "more learners in it than the polytechnics do".

"Something had to be done about the polytechnics, their financial struggles are well known. That was the bit of the system that was broken," he said.

"We certainly feel like we have been tarred with that brush, when actually we are the ones that do the on-the-job training for the workforce."

The target of the reforms, Mr Williams said, should be to see more people entering industry training.

"We can't magic up new human beings, there are only a certain number of school-leavers that school.

"With 4 percent unemployment, it is hard to find new people. We have to build up the skills of the workforce we got, and we can only do that through supporting more employers," he said.


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