An on-the-job training movement is gaining momentum and we see 2018 as the year for businesses to capitalise upon the growing acceptance of apprenticeships and other industry training programmes as valid, successful career pathways.

It is crucial that New Zealand companies address the impending skills shortage and look to invest in ambitious, smart and tech-savvy people – whom they already employ.

To make on-the-job training more appealing to employers, the government recently introduced a new ‘two years fees-free’ policy for industry training. This makes on-the-job learning more affordable and easily accessible for employers, as well as for those looking at an apprenticeship or workplace training programme.

Micro-learning gains traction

2018 is also the year of ‘micro-learning’. While formal qualifications will always have a place in our economy,

we are witnessing employers increasingly seeking new ways to develop a skilled and adaptable workforce.

Micro-credentials or nano-degrees allow learners to upskill without completing a lengthy programme and it is expected that this format of learning will play a major role in education systems both here and overseas in the coming years.

In late 2017, the government launched three micro-credential pilot projects, including a self-driving car engineering programme, demonstrating its commitment to the kind of innovation in the tertiary education system recommended in the Productivity Commission’s report.

Many New Zealand industry training organisations already offer a range of micro-learning options. In 2018 we expect a significant rise in the number of micro- and on-the-job learners.

Both micro-learning and apprenticeship programmes allow businesses to be nimble and responsive to advancements in technology. Businesses can train their people armed with the latest equipment and machinery right in front of them. Often university degree programmes use technology that is redundant by the time a student graduates.

Learning on the job and working with the latest technology in an ever-evolving digital world is a compelling argument for the benefit of workplace training models. Operating in 36 industries, our employers include mechanical engineering, manufacturing, and forestry companies, which recognise the need for highly skilled and technical roles in a digitally evolving workplace. In today’s job market employees with practical intelligence can have just as much earning power as academic intelligence.

And let’s not forget, this style of education is achievable while people are fully employed and productive.

Relevant training key

Whether it’s an apprenticeship, a workplace learning programme or a nano-degree, the nature of work and learning is constantly changing. Tertiary education providers from whom employers can source their employees are under threat. In 2017 funding and financial challenges combined with falling enrolments led to restructures at several tertiary institutions throughout the country.

The entire tertiary education sector must ensure education and training remains relevant and contemporary and I am encouraged by the new government that has indicated it wants the tertiary sector to be more flexible and responsive to better meet our changing labour market.

One way it is doing this is through the Roadmap 2030 project, which aims to engage collaboratively with institutes of technology and polytechnics to explore and test different options for change and one outcome may be to support more workplace learning initiatives.

Gone are the days of trying to plug a square peg into a round hole – we need to deliver learning that is right for the employer, the learner and the demands of the economy to ensure Kiwi businesses remain competitive.

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