Chris Hipkins slams 'scaremongering hogwash' over polytech merger

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has scoffed at National's claims 1300 jobs could be lost in the Government's recently unveiled polytech merger proposal.

Speaking to Newshub Nation, Hipkins dismissed National's numbers as "ridiculous".

"That's just absolute scaremongering hogwash, quite frankly. That works on the basis that every person who is currently supporting on-job learning, an apprenticeship or an industry trainee, would lose their job." 

While Hipkins did acknowledge to Newshub Nation in April that 'significant' job losses were possible, he struck a more optimistic note this morning. 

"Those apprentices, those industry trainees, are still going to be there, and in fact, we're aiming to grow the number of them. So the number of people supporting them is likely to grow, not decrease. So [National's claim] is absolutely ridiculous.

"This isn't about job losses. Some people's jobs may change, but they'll be well-supported through that process, and that will be over a longer period."

According to Cabinet documents relating to the merger, student numbers could drop by up to 18,000 during the transition - but Hipkins says that's a worst-case scenario.

"One of the things that we did when we went out and consulted on the reform proposal, we then looked very carefully over the last six or seven months about how we can manage the transition so that's the worst-case scenario. We're obviously aiming to not lose students along the way."

The Government proposed merging the country's polytechnics as the New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology in February, and announced more specifics on Thursday.

The Education Minister says while the merger is one step, there needs to be an overall shift in the education sector's attitude towards the trades. 

"I think schools for too long have worked on the basis that the ultimate goal for a secondary school is to get all of their kids to go to university. In fact, fewer than a third of their kids are going to university."

Newshub Nation.