On-the-job training

Almost every job entails some on-the-job training, the degree of which will be determined by how much skill and knowledge the employee has and the type of work involved.
Some employees start work with knowledge but need to learn how to apply it. For example, a trained barista may be competent in making coffee but will need to learn how to work with staff and customers.

Other employees may have skills and knowledge but need to learn the processes and systems at their new workplaces.
Advice from Employment New Zealand on its website is that all employees, no matter what their skill levels, need to keep learning while they work in order to keep pace with changes in technology and practices. “To keep employees working ‘at the top of their game’, employers need to work with them to make sure that they get the training, development and support that is needed.”

Employment New Zealand recommends what’s known as the “70-20-10 rule” as a guideline to upskilling:
Seventy percent from on-the-job-related experiences – new experiences and challenges in day-to-day tasks builds learning and development through practice.
Twenty percent from learning and developing through others from feedback, coaching, observing others, personal networks and other collaborative and co-operative actions.
Ten percent from structured development, which can be external or internal, such as training courses, programmes, further education, conferences and symposiums.

Vocational education

Vocational education is education and training that has a special emphasis on the skills and knowledge required to perform a specific role or to work in a specific industry.
Each year more than 240,000 people in New Zealand access vocational education for occupations as diverse as aged care work and plumbing through to law enforcement, film making and funeral directing. Most training programmes are part of a pathway towards a qualification recognised in a specific industry.

Vocational training can be delivered in the workplace (by employers to employees with support from industry training organisations, or ITOs, or through providers such as institutes of technology and polytechnics, wānanga and private training establishments.
The system and provision of vocational education is currently under review as the government seeks to upgrade it to become “sustainable and fit for the future of work, delivering what learners, employers and communities need to be successful”.

Accessing vocational training

Employers can access industry training for their employees through one of the
11 government-funded ITOs in New Zealand. ITOs are industry bodies that arrange training for apprentices and trainees in employment. They may support the employer to provide on-the-job training; for example, by working with supervisors to ensure they have the skills to train new staff.

ITOs may also develop resources for on-job learning, and in some cases purchase training from training providers. ITOs also have a key role in setting industry skill standards and developing New Zealand certificate and diploma qualifications on behalf of industry.
These standards apply to traditional trades and apprenticeships as well as primary industries, manufacturing, construction, retail, government and community services.

ITOs arrange workplace training and work with tertiary education providers to develop and deliver the skills that benefit workers, employers and the New Zealand economy. They are also responsible for:

  • providing information and advice to trainees and their employers
  • arranging for the delivery of on- and off-job training (including developing training packages for employers)
  • arranging for the assessment of trainees, and
  • arranging the monitoring of quality training.
  • Learners can access vocational education at secondary school via the Gateway and STAR schemes.


The Gateway programme  offers work experience, learning on the job and getting NCEA and industry qualifications. The scheme is offered by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) and supports senior secondary students (Years 11 to 13+) undertaking structured workplace learning across a range of industries and businesses around New Zealand, while they continue to study at school.


The Secondary Tertiary Alignment Resource is a flexible funding scheme designed to enable:

  • schools to form partnerships with tertiary education providers and employers to provide vocational education and work experience
  • student exploration of pathways to work or further education
  • engagement with learning by highlighting the relevance of learning to future employment or study
  • achievement of NCEA and tertiary qualifications on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework.

Beyond-school vocational education is available both part-time or full-time and from a huge variety of providers. There are 16 institutes of technology and polytechnics and several hundred private training establishments (PTEs) in New Zealand.

Vocational education can include work experience, work-based learning and simulated-work environments.


An apprenticeship is a way to learn a trade, and work and earn at the same time. In most cases this involves training on-the-job and block course training. The training is usually designed by the industry, for the industry. Examples of apprenticeships include plumbing, panel beating, hairdressing and building.

How good is the training? The quality of vocational education is assured by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and the Tertiary Education Commission.

What about the cost? Vocational education and training is subsidised depending where it is carried out and how many learners are enrolled. Work-based subsidies are lower than provider-based rates, which reflects the differing costs of provider-based and workplace-based learning, and the additional contributions of employers (as firms benefit from having more highly skilled workers).

Subsidies for provider-based training is around 70 percent but varies according to subject area and level of education. Learners are expected to meet any remaining costs of study and living costs.


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