Friday, 5th April, 2019

The South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce has submitted on the proposals contained within the Reform of Vocational Education document.

In responding to this proposal the Chamber has met with a range of business representatives, our local ITP provider Ara Institute of Canterbury, ITO representatives, a number of PTE’s, local government representatives and held a consultation workshop with the Tertiary Education Commission.

In general Wendy Smith said “that the Chamber is deeply concerned about the theme of centralisation that appears to be running through a number of the current governments policies. Centralisation rarely benefits local communities and local businesses and is inherently slow and bureaucratic. The current need in vocational education is for currency, flexibility and fit for purpose delivery options that are both on and off job.”

The first proposal seeks to redefine roles for industry bodies and education providers and although we recognise and endorse the need to minimise over lapping provision and align the ITO and ITP roles, we believe that bundling all this provision together and placing it under one ITP will be disastrous for the regions and for industry training. We are concerned that key parts of the ecosystem appear to have been lightly regarded including the important role played by PTE’s and the assumption that the Open Polytechnic will lead all distance learning. Surely distance learning is simply a delivery methodology and needs to be an integral part of all vocational education and training going forward.

Wendy Smith said that proposal two is to create one NZ Institute of Skills and Technology. “We understand the viability issues that have occurred for some entities and recommend a reduction in number of ITP’s with a top of the South ITP, one for the lower South Island and four or five in the North Island but merging all 16 ITP’s under one umbrella is a radical change that we believe is likely to lead to a significant loss of provision. This type of centralisation is likely to create a lack of responsiveness, flexibility and innovation. We believe that many of the back office functions can be centralised whilst still preserving a level of autonomy at the student, delivery and premises to ensure agility and responsiveness. The areas that can be centralised include student management systems, curriculum development, quality systems and financial management systems.”

Proposal three of a unified vocational education funding system is supported and should lead to a more even playing field. This needs to recognise that students moving into employment is a desirable outcome and the funding should follow a student/trainee enabling them to upskill through their working life as they transition across employer’s and industry sectors.

The Chamber closed the submission by raising a flag of concern regarding the extraordinarily tight timeframes for consultation and implementation, but assured the Minister and the Tertiary Education Commission that the South Canterbury Chamber is looking forward to playing an active role in future provision, in supporting and creating work in the Industry Skills Bodies and Regional Leadership Groups and any associated working parties.