Tim Shadbolt vows to fight polytech mega-merger

Invercargill's Mayor is vowing to fight plans to combine New Zealand's polytechnics.

The Government proposed a nationwide merger on Thursday, bringing all 16 polytechnics into one to be called the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology.

Tim Shadbolt told Newshub the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) is the lifeblood of the city and the community doesn't want to lose it.

"It'll make a huge impact on the number of staff that are there, the efforts we've made to attract overseas students from around the world, we've had initiatives such as the zero fees scheme."

SIT introduced zero fees in the late 1990s as part of efforts to attract more young people to the city. It began offering free accommodation in 2018 after the Government's fees-free policy was introduced.

Shadbolt said it's not the first time Invercargill has had a fight on its hands.

"There certainly will be push back, we've become quite astute fighters... We may be small but we know how to present our case. "

One of his first stops will be to share his displeasure directly with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

 "I'm speaking with the Prime Minister on the Kiwi-Indian Hall of Fame and I'll be letting her know loud and clear what we think about this. "

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said on Thursday the changes will give the industry greater control.

"The changes we are making will give industry greater control over all aspects of vocational education and training, making the system more responsive to employers' needs and to the changing world of work," Hipkins said. 

"Industry and employers will identify skills needs, set standards and approve qualifications and credentials, and influence funding decisions."

Business leader urges caution.


Meanwhile Business NZ CEO Kirk Hope is concerned there could be some flow-on effects for students.

He's hoping institutes can ensure they don't lose pupils in the changeover.

"We want to be really careful that those people don't drop out of the system as a result of the changes, we already have skills shortages in a range of industries so we don't want to lose a significant number of those people," he told Newshub.

Hope said there are plenty of people who enjoy alternative methods of training, and the restructure shouldn't take the focus away from them.

"There are a lot of people who are doing a lot of on the job training, we want to make sure that continues and that is recognised as well as those people who are training outside providers."


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