After a brief five months of industry consolidation, the Government is pushing ahead with its big shakeup of work education and training it claims will “create a unified vocational education system”.
Around 2904 industry submissions were made after the Government’s Reform of Vocational Education programme was proposed back in February.
Last month the Government released the first of its reforms under its Education Work Programme that will change vocational education and training for the first time in over two decades.
Among seven key moves in the Reform of Vocational Education is the formation of a new mega polytech called the New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology that will bring together the 16 institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs) as a single national campus network.
This new Institute will start on April 1 next year to oversee on-the-job and off-the-job learning, with its charter set out in law.
About four to seven industry-governed Workforce Development Councils will be created by 2022 to replace and expand most of the existing roles of industry training organisations, and represent regional interests. They will work across education, immigration and welfare systems in each region to identify local skill needs and make sure the system is delivering the right mix of education and training.
Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs) will be set up at regional campuses tasked with bringing together the Institute, other providers, workforce development councils, industry specialists and researchers to provide vocational education and share curriculum and programme design across the system.
A ‘unified’ funding system will apply to all provider-based and work-integrated education at certificate and diploma qualification levels 3 to 7 (excluding degree study) and all industry training.
No decisions have been made on exactly how the system will be funded, and the Government concedes that, while it will work closely with stakeholders as its departments design and implement these reforms, a transformation of this size will take a number of years to complete.
Implementation of the changes would not be rushed, it says. And to ensure continuity for learners and employers and to allow time to build new capacity, the transition will take three to four years to get fully underway.
The Government says its proposed changes will tackle long-term challenges of skills shortages and the mismatch between training and the needs of employers.
“Industry and employers will identify skills needs, set standards and approve qualifications and credentials, and influence funding decisions.”
Reforms will also ensure trades and vocational education are recognised and valued.
“We want to see more workplace learning, more apprentices and more opportunities for people to earn while they learn,” says Minister of Education Chris Hipkins.
“Vocational education, trades training and on-the-job training have been allowed to drift for too long. These are long-term challenges that this Government is committed to fixing.
“The comprehensive changes we are making will address the widespread skills shortages across most industry sectors. These shortages highlight the limitations of the current vocational educational system.”
National’s Tertiary Education spokesman Dr Shane Reti disagrees and says the proposed changes are a step backwards that will result in job losses and blow-out in costs to double the $200 million the Government has set aside for implementing the reforms.
The Government has blatantly ignored the concerns of industry and businesses who raised serious issues with polytechnic training, he claims.
“Employers are telling us they will cease to employ apprentices next year if apprentices go back to polytechnics.
“This is a big step backwards especially when our construction sector is crying out for apprentices.”
Existing training employment and businesses
The Government says that when the Institute comes into being in April next year existing employment agreements will transfer over to a subsidiary operation of its new Institute.
“As with institutes of technology and polytechnics, one of the strengths of the current vocational education and training system is the quality and dedication of the staff of industry training organisations,” it says.
“We acknowledge that change is stressful and that the vocational education reforms will impact on many people working within the sector. The new system of vocational education will be introduced in a managed way.
“Under the changes, ITOs’ current role of supporting workplace learning and assessment for on-the-job vocational education will be transferred to vocational education providers.
“Providers will become responsible for arranging and supporting all vocational education and training, whether it takes place off-the-job or on-the-job. Workforce development councils will become responsible for moderating assessments.
“Transfer of on-the-job training to providers will be carefully managed and will occur progressively from 2020 as confidence is gained that sufficient capability is in place in providers to ensure successful transfer of on-the-job training.
“The use of mechanisms such as creating holding organisations from existing ITOs will be considered to continue current on-the-job training arrangements, with the goal of moving all training to providers by 2022.
“This would give employers who are satisfied with their current support the assurance that the transition will be carefully managed over a three-year period to minimise any disruption to services.
“It would also provide a more structured transition, easing pressure on both ITOs and the new Institute, and would reassure the Government that providers are migrating towards the sort of organisation that can appropriately manage both off-the-job and on-the-job learning, before confirming the final transition.
“A key purpose of holding organisations would be to protect the interests of employers during the transition period. This allows industry bodies to reform to ensure continuity of services.
“They would enable a phased and well-managed transition of ITO functions to workforce development councils and providers. Holding organisations, which would have statutory recognition, would be able to continue to use existing ITO branding.
“Roles within your ITO will remain important and in demand, whether in workforce development councils or providers, and new roles will be created to fill the expansion of industry’s involvement in vocational education.
“Our goal is to retain the services of as many ITO staff as possible within the vocational education system. If you’re a specialist in a certain field you may be invited to help establish a workforce development council or Centre of Vocational Excellence related to your industry.
“The transition to the new system will be phased and you will be supported throughout the process. We will keep you up-to-date with developments on the reform process and what it will mean to you and your job.”
The Government has also told businesses to keep hiring apprentices, encourage people to enrol and work with your ITO and institute of technology and polytechnic sector for their training needs.
“On-the-job training isn’t stopping and won’t be replaced by off-the-job training. Apprenticeships and on-the-job training will continue to be a priority and are essential to the economy and helping us tackle current skills shortages.
“The changes we’re making are about helping you get the consistently well-trained and work-ready workforce with the skills you need, and getting people into work more quickly.
“The reform of vocational education presents an opportunity for you to decide what you want industry training to look like and to work with the Government to make it happen.
“Industry and employers will have greater influence over the courses and training offered within the new vocational education system, making it easier for you to access training that meets your changing needs.
“Industry-governed workforce development councils will have comprehensive responsibilities, including advising on funding decisions, standard setting and learner assessment.
“To ensure that the transition of the role of supporting on-the-job learning is carefully managed and funded, it is proposed that ITOs or holding organisations (formed from the existing ITOs) would be able to continue to operate current arrangements for supporting on-the-job training until the end of 2022.
“ITOs would be subject to new recognition conditions on the passing of legislation.”
This article was first published in the September 2019 issue of Contractor Magazine.