New Zealand’s 16 institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs) could be replaced by one mega polytech under Education Minister Chris Hipkins’ proposals to reform New Zealand’s vocational education system.
In his much anticipated announcement today, Hipkins proposed bringing together New Zealand’s ITPs as a single entity with the creation of a New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology, a central, over-arching polytechnic, supported by regional campuses.
The recommendation is in response to the poor financial state of the ITP sector and duplication across ITPs.
“At a time when we’re facing critical skill shortages, too many of our polytechnics and institutes of technology are going broke,” says Hipkins.
“It’s time to reset the whole system and fundamentally rethink the way we view vocational education and training, and how it’s delivered.”
“The financial instability and structural issues within the current model mean the status quo is not sustainable,” he states in his Cabinet paper. “While change on this scale will be disruptive, it will strengthen the vocational education system for the long term.”
Hipkins envisages the over-arching New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology as “a distributed network that serves and balances national and regional interests” with a coherent set of nationally-delivered programmes.
It would incorporate the Open Polytechnic to provide online learning and host Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs), which Hipkins describes as “power houses of expertise” covering key sectors and industries.
Importantly, the institute would have a single governing council with responsibility for budgets, staffing, students and learning systems. The regional campuses would have regional leadership committees.
Polytechs are not the only ones facing drastic changes with the proposed reforms posing huge implications for industry training organisations (ITOs).
Hipkins proposes to introduce industry skills bodies that are “similar to ITOs”. These bodies would be industry-led organisations that apply to the Minister for recognition. They would be responsible for setting standards and approving qualifications.
Meanwhile ITOs’ current roles of arranging training for work-based vocational education and purchasing courses for work-based trainees would be delegated to other parts of the system, including providers. The rationale for change is that industry skills bodies will provide skills leadership and coordinate industry efforts to address future skills needs.
The third main proposal is to create a unified vocational education funding system which should support more work-integrated learning that resembles apprenticeships.
Hipkins says the proposals need to be bold in order to bring about necessary change.
“What we are proposing is ambitious, but it needs to be. We cannot continue to tweak the system knowing that the model is fundamentally broken and isn’t delivering our workforce the skills that they need to thrive,” he says.
Public consultation is open until 27 March.