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WEDS addressing the region’s Primary Sector skill needs


The Wairarapa Economic Development Strategy Group [WEDS] welcomes today’s announcement from Hon Chris Hipkins, the Minister of Education, on the reform of vocational education in New Zealand.

While the reforms are a national package, the test will be their local application. It is recognised that regions need to step up and help shape the reforms to meet their local needs. Knowing this was coming, WEDS has developed an active Vocational Skills Leadership Group in Wairarapa to work alongside Government on implementation.

The group is made up of iwi, education providers, Federated Farmers and WEDS leaders and their first focus is on addressing our region’s primary sector skills needs. As a result, they’ve led the establishment of a Primary Sector Skills group made up of cross-sector Wairarapa farmers. These farmers are employers who are committed to attracting more learners into the sector and supporting them to excel. They’re currently designing a vocational hub as the local response to the implementation challenge and with the goal of getting some training in place for 2020.

The vision is to strike a balance between learning and earning and it will work to attract employers (farmers and processors) into supporting training, connect learners with the right options, and help both to work together. Their work will be aligned with the existing services already offered by providers, helping ensure the courses being designed meet local needs. The focus will on making sure quality programmes are available for students to succeed in the workforce.

“The biggest change people will see is an ‘earn as you learn’ scenario for learners,” says Primary Sector Skills group chair, Andrew Freeman.

“We envisage them being genuinely useful on-farm within a week and ideally earning real money within months, but at the same time building skills and gaining credit for them.

“But the key is providing support to all – upskilling managers as much as early learners.”

The initiative is backed by Wairarapa Youth in Education Training or Employment (YETE), which has already received funding to assist up to 60 at risk rangatahi to transition into training and employment and are working with the Primary Sector group as the programme design develops. It also has the support of Ngāti Kahungunu and Rangitāne who are passionate about developing and growing young farmers.

“The closure of Taratahi made us all focus on the urgent need for primary sector skills training in Wairarapa to meet the needs of our rural economy,” said Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson on behalf of the WEDS Governance Group.

“However, the model we’re developing has a wider application to other critical skill gaps and our Vocational Skills Leadership group will be proactively engaging with Government in the coming months to ensure Wairarapa’s immediate and future skills needs are met.”

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