New Zealand's largest construction and trade apprenticeship provider has criticised the Government's proposal to change the country's vocational training setup.
In February, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced the Government intended to merge New Zealand's 16 polytechnics in an attempt to strengthen vocational education and attract more students as enrolments drop.
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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.
On Tuesday, building and construction leaders met in Auckland for an urgent summit to discuss the changes, with some leaving with a critical view of the proposal.
The Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) chief executive, Warwick Quinn, told Newshub the Government's proposal would damage relationships between potential apprentices and their mentors.
"The relationships that develop that our ITO provides, are at risk of being watered down or not being maintained at this time," he said.
"That is a key deliverable or non-negotiable that creates a strong learning environment because it is customised to each employer and to each apprentice"
While ITOs will still have some input into skill standards, NZIST will take over most managerial responsibilities.
Mr Quinn said changes might also take a while to implement, creating a sustained period of uncertainty.
"Because you are talking about a significant system change, you'd have to change the system again, which would take another reasonably length of time to beat in. So we are talking about five or ten years' worth of disruption."
"If this doesn't happen smoothly, employers will disengage, which means they won't take on apprentices," he said on Tuesday.
But Mr Hipkins said the changes are being made because the current system is not working.
He told Newshub there's too much tension between industry training organisations and polytechnics because they're competing for the same students.
"The system's far too fragmented, far too disjointed; [it's] hard for employers to navigate their way through and hard for the people who want to enter the industry to get into," he said on Tuesday.