New era for vocational education says Education Minister
Auckland, February 23, 2020
The New Zealand Parliament passed the ‘Education (Vocational Education and Training Reform) Amendment Bill on Wednesday, February 19, 2020, which will see a major change in the vocational education as well as industrial training sectors.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins described the move as ‘a major step forward in the government’s work to put trade and vocational education back on the agenda.’
“This is a watershed day for trades and vocational education. These law changes formalise the process of creating a strong, unified, sustainable system to set us up to respond to skills shortages and prepare for the future of work,” he said.
He said that the legislation would create a Skills and Technology Institute which fits well with the recently announced $12 billion infrastructure programme.
Severe skills shortage
“There has never been a better time to enter trades and vocational training. For years, New Zealand has faced serious skills shortages across many industries. The construction industry alone needs 80,000 workers in the next five years and the current system is not set up to handle the demand,” Mr Hipkins said.
He said that the current system discourages collaboration and pits polytechnics and on-the-job training providers against each other. Learners are often the ones caught in the cross-fire and employers don’t get the skills they need.
“With these changes, we are bringing together a coherent system of on-the-job apprenticeships and off-the-job training for the first time in 30 years, since apprenticeships were abolished in the 1990s.”
Mr Hipkins said that the government is creating a system that would be simple to understand and navigate, be responsive to the needs of learners and employers, and be flexible enough to keep changing and evolving as the world around us changes and evolves.”
About the new Legislation
The Bill gives industry greater leadership across vocational education and training by establishing Workforce Development Councils (WDCs).
It will also establish the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology (NZIST), which will bring together all 16 polytechnics and institutes of technology to provide, arrange and support vocational education and training across the country.
A new regulatory framework for vocational education and training will also be in place.
“Amendments following the feedback received from the sector during the Select Committee process and from my colleagues in the House will make the Bill more effective in achieving the Government’s vision,” Mr Hipkins said.
According to Mr Hipkins, the Bill ensures academic freedom for staff at the NZIST while allowing industry to take a leadership role in identifying the skills needed in the workplace through workforce development councils. It will lead to better outcomes for students, industry and the regions, and provides support for staff during the transition to the new system.
“This Bill, along with the work happening outside Parliament, will create Workforce Development Councils, Centres of Vocational Excellence, a new Vocational Education Funding System, and promote Vocational Education in schools and the community. It is a testament to the ability of New Zealanders to work together in pursuit of the common good,” Mr Hipkins said.
“We will continue to work with industry sectors and training organisations, the institutes of technology and polytechnics that will become a part of the NZIST on April 1, 2020, students, unions, whānau and communities to complete the task of building a better system of vocational education and training,” he said.
The Project thus far
Work done to date that relates to the creation of a new system of vocational education and training includes the following: (a) Announcement that the WDCs will provide industry with greater leadership across vocational education and training, including for Construction and Infrastructure, and Primary Industries (b) announcement that there will be two centres of vocational excellence to drive innovation and strengthen links between education providers and these two crucial sectors (c) establishment of Te Taumata Aronui, which will help develop the tertiary education system to support the aspirations better, reflecting the needs of Māori learners, communities and employers (d) announcement that the Construction Sector Transformation Plan, which will make it easier to deliver the workforce and productivity gains required to build the houses, schools, roads, rail and hospitals New Zealand needs (e) launch of a campaign to raise the profile of vocational education (f) setting up a new education-to-employment brokerage service to strengthen connections between local employers and schools (g) funding more trades focused events that will mean tens of thousands of secondary students are given exposure to employers and the opportunities offered by key industries, and (h) funding thousands more Trades Academy and Gateway places for secondary students.