In today’s Herald appeared an open letter to Education Minister Chris Hipkins from over 148 businesses, imploring the Minister to rethink proposals to dismantle the Industry Training Organisation-led training and apprenticeship system as part of its wider vocational reforms.
The government is due to decide on its proposal to transfer responsibility for trainees and apprentices to polytechnics and other vocational providers, away from industry owned and governed training organisations (ITOs).
Industry Training Federation Chief Executive Josh Williams says he strongly supports employers’ concerns about the continuity and quality of training and associated support for on-job trainees and apprentices.
“Industry trainees and apprentices are workers whose training is part of their employment. Their training has to be organised around their workplace, or it doesn’t work,” Williams says.
ITOs currently qualify people in several industries where there is no polytechnic or provider-based training, because that’s what works for those industries.
“We don’t believe a compelling case has been made for removing the role for industry-owned bodies to manage and support industry trainees and apprentices. We are very concerned that the proposed structure creates the wrong incentives, resulting in a reduction in employer participation.
“We are also concerned that with all the other structural change proposed, vocational providers will be less able to support fast-moving areas of the workforce. Employers will still train their staff, but those workers may not have credits or qualifications to show for it, making them less resilient in the workforce.
“Industry training is the only part of the sector where we have seen growth in the last five years, along with higher earnings, and comparable credit completion rates between European, Māori and Pasifika learners”.
As the system currently stands, businesses lead a national training system through their ITOs, which develop and maintain skills standards and arrange training on behalf of employers.
Williams says this provides a critical continuous feedback loop that employers value, and ensures that skills development matches industry needs.
“Now is not the time to pull the pin on our industry-led training and apprenticeship system. New Zealand’s strong performance suggests we should be focusing on ways to grow our numbers, and support many more New Zealand employers to train and qualify our workforce,” he says.
However, the Tertiary Education Union says the Industry Training Organisations’ opposition to the proposals is based on them wanting to hold onto a market share, rather than concern for learner needs.
“As trained educators we have always defended quality vocational education and training for all learners – no matter whether on-campus or on-job. We know that quality comes from ensuring learners have access to quality tutors and support services,” says National President Michael Gilchrist.
The TEU is encouraging people to sign its own open letter, that advocates for all New Zealanders to have access to a stable, sustainable and co-ordinated public vocational education.