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Skills For A Knowledge Economy - Maharey Speech

Hon Steve Maharey Speech Notes

Skills For A Knowledge Economy - Bringing Industry, Schools, And Education And Training Providers Together

Speech at the launch of the National Certificate in Electronics Technology at the ElectroTechnology ITO (ETITO) Industry Forum. Ellerslie Convention Centre, Greenlane, Auckland.

Introduction

Thank you Ross for the kind words of welcome and introduction.

I am both honoured and delighted to have been invited to join you this afternoon for the launch of the National Certificate in Electronics Technology.

There are a number of familiar faces in the room - and some that are new to me, and I welcome the fact that we have present here this afternoon individuals representing organisations that are part of what I would call an extended learning community - a community that brings together industry, the ITO, education and training providers from the vocational education and training sector, and principals and teachers from a number of Auckland secondary schools.

We are here to launch a new National Certificate.

It is, as Ross has noted, a National Certificate which had its genesis in the ETITO's initiation of a campaign in 1997 to attract more young people into electrical and electronic careers.

One of the most effective results of this move was the establishment of a schools qualification, the National Certificate in Electronics Technology Level 2 (NCET). I understand that this has been a very successful qualification with over 3,500 students from 140 secondary schools achieving credits in electronics unit standards over the first four years of the NCET.

This year the qualification has been extensively revised drawing on the expertise of an advisory group drawn from the secondary education system, tertiary education, and industry.

Ross has outlined the capability of the new revised NCET and I sense that it is going to prove to be a real asset - for students, for teachers, for industry, and for the New Zealand economy as a whole, which, now more than ever, requires the kinds of skills and knowledge that a qualification of this kind provides a foundation for.

Ross has issued a challenge - a challenge to the Government to continue our support through the funding arrangements that have assisted schools and students to participate. I am happy to accept that challenge and to give you an undertaking that the Government will continue to support initiatives that create pathways from school to further education and training - whether through institutional learning, or on the job.

Let me outline some of the strategies that the Government is working on to build transitions from school to further education and training, and employment.

Strategies to build effective youth transitions to further education, training, and employment

The realities of the labour market mean that the traditional approach to education no longer guarantees all young people will succeed in the modern economy.

OECD research suggests that a flexible curriculum, addressing the needs of the individual is an important part of the solution.

In the New Zealand context, this translates to a better balance between a well-rounded general education, based on critical thinking, and a capacity to participate in the world of work.

The Government is supporting schools to meet the learning needs of all students through enhanced general education provision, as well as integrated work-related learning.

The Government’s commitment to act in partnership with schools, enterprise and the community to address the issue of youth transitions, is clearly signalled by a number of new initiatives:

An Education and Training Leaving Age

The Government supports an Education and Training Leaving Age framework, to ensure that all young people up to the age of 18 will be voluntarily in education, training or employment.

Gateway

Gateway is a new programme that addresses the need for structured work-based learning opportunities in the senior secondary school.

It allows students to participate in work-based learning, including assessment towards national qualifications and is integrated into the existing school curriculum.

Gateway is currently being piloted in 18 decile 1 - 5 schools around New Zealand with an additional two schools in the process of signing contracts and another two in negotiation with Skill New Zealand. It is available to all senior secondary students in the participating schools.

Gateway aims to build positive relationships between Skill New Zealand, schools and enterprise.

Across the country, there was a very strong interest from secondary schools wishing to participate in this initiative.

Modern Apprenticeships

Yesterday I announced a major expansion, from July 1, of Modern Apprenticeships into 13 new industries.

The Modern Apprenticeships initiative will be extended into industries as diverse as aeronautical engineering, furniture, and sports turf management.

In total, 44 Modern Apprenticeships Co-ordinator organisations have now been appointed, with over 120 Co-ordinators available throughout New Zealand.

Co-ordinators work with employers, industry training organisations, education providers, and the Modern Apprentices themselves. They make recruiting and training Modern Apprentices easier for employers, and provide mentoring to help young people achieve National Certificates at levels 3- 4 of the National Qualifications framework.

The latest stage of the national roll out covers aeronautical engineering, agriculture; aluminium joinery (architectural) baking, contracting, food processing, forest industries; furniture, horticulture, motor engineering, road transport, seafood, and sports turf.

Modern Apprenticeships is working for young people and employers. We already have over 800 Modern Apprentices in industry training, and we’re extending coverage across a good proportion of New Zealand’s industries, with more to come next year. The target is to have at least 3,000 Modern Apprenticeships by March 2002.

The support and expertise provided by Co-ordinators throughout the country mean that it has never been easier for employers to take on and train apprentices.

This industry has made a very significant contribution to Modern Apprenticeships - as at 31 March 108 of the Modern Apprentices employed were employed in this industry - that reflects extremely well on your industry, your ITO, and the other members of the learning family.

The Secondary Tertiary Alignment Resource

The Secondary Tertiary Alignment Resource (STAR) funds courses increase the non-traditional and vocational pathways within the secondary school system.

STAR funds learning that is not available in the general curriculum. It gives students access to a wider range of learning, leading to credits towards nationally recognised qualifications.

Officials from the Ministry of Education and the Department of Labour have been involved in a review of the STAR - not, I must emphasise, with a view to doing anything other than building on its successes and seeking to ensure that it is used to fund the kind of learning that the NCET allows - and I expect to see their report shortly.

Let me comment on another review that I know you have been discussing today.

The Industry Training Review

Many of you will be aware that the Government has entered into a review of industry training. The review has been underway since July 2000. On 14 March this year a consultation document entitled Skills for a Knowledge Economy was released seeking public comment on a broad range of options to improve the effectiveness and responsiveness of the industry training system.

Sixty five submissions were received in response to this document, and the tenor of those responses was generally supportive of the Government's focus on skill development.

There are a number of principles that underpin the Government's investment in industry training. These are to:

- Assist the development and the maintenance of the industry training infrastructure, including the National Qualifications Framework structure and the efficient operation of ITOs;

- Provide support for an expanding volume of high quality, relevant training across all sectors of the economy;

- Contribute to specific key objectives, such as improving literacy and numeracy levels across all members of the workforce; and

- Achieve all of the above on a cost-sharing basis, with the part contribution of government towards training costs reflecting the wider socio-economic benefits - the public good if you like - of vocational education and training

While the present system has many strengths - and I might say that the launch of the new National Certificate this afternoon is one of the clearer demonstrations of those strengths - there are a number of weaknesses:

Uneven access

Some industries are not well covered regionally, or for small firms; in other areas firms must deal with multiple ITOs

Achievement rates

Although participation rates in industry training have increased, trainee credit achievement rates vary widely across ITOs

Uneven coverage of skill needs

Planning for training needs within some industries appears to be limited

Variable ITO performance

Some ITOs - although I should emphasise, not the ETITO - are not as responsive to the needs of some of the firms in their industries

Unequal participation by different groups

Women are under-represented in industry training, and although Maori and Pacific peoples have relatively high participation, it does vary across industries

Uncertainty about government's role and expectations

There is a need to clarify how the different stakeholders in industry training will work together, and to clarify government expectations from industry training

Weak pathways between different parts of the education sector

Some parts of the tertiary education sector - and I use the term to describe everything from foundation education programmes like Youth Training and Training Opportunities through to specialised research in the institutions of higher learning - remain poorly connected to industry training.

The Government will shortly be considering recommendations arising out of the Industry Training review and I hope to be able to make an announcement by mid July.

The Government response will be consistent with the principles I have already outlined, and it has been informed by the many submissions that we received. Can I thank Ray, Marilyn, the ETITO Board, and your staff for your contribution to this process.

The Government signalled its commitment and its future intentions in the recent Budget. Budget 2001 demonstrated our commitment to significantly boost the number of industry training places available so that employers can recruit sufficient skilled staff across all sectors of the economy.

An additional $56m will be added to the fund over the next four years to purchase an estimated additional 17,400 training places.

The continued expansion of industry training places to an all time high makes a significant contribution to our goal to develop an inclusive knowledge society. The new investment builds on a $23 million four-year allocation provided last year, taking total investment in industry training to $338.9m over the coming four years.

Up to one $1m of the additional funds for the 2001/02 year will be targeted specifically to a new technology and industry training project. We want to increase employee's access to learning through the use of new learning technologies, such ass computer-based learning.

The industry training review has been closely aligned with the process of reforming the tertiary education system generally - let me comment on that process in closing.

Tertiary Education Reform

In this year’s Budget, the Government announced the establishment of a Tertiary Education Commission. We will be setting up this Commission over the next twelve months, with the help of an establishment board called Transition TEC.

It will take over responsibility for administering all aspects of lifelong learning beyond the school system.

Why are we doing this? Essentially, it is because we are now in a global economy, and if New Zealand is to thrive and prosper, it will need to operate as a knowledge society.

The Tertiary Education Advisory Commission (TEAC) report, Shaping the System, gave us the steering mechanisms we will need to use our tertiary education capability strategically. These are:

- Charters for publicly-funded providers that are meaningful and set out their special mission and contribution to the system as a whole;

- Provider profiles to avoid duplication and focus each provider on their specialties and the needs of their stakeholders; and

- A Tertiary Education Commission to bring the administration of the whole system together under one agency, with strong involvement from business and other stakeholders in its governance.

Next, we need to set out priorities for strategic investment in the system.

This doesn’t mean a system of central direction where the Government sets out in advance how many lawyers we will train this year, how many scientists, how many hairdressers and how many humanities students.

We want innovative and autonomous providers to take the lead in responding to communities, business and learners.

Nor would we want everything to be focussed on the priority areas that are chosen. A knowledge society still needs a broad range of skills.

But, where we invest more money, we want to do so in ways that make a strategic difference.

Over the next year, therefore, I want us as a nation to decide what our investment priorities for tertiary education are. That way, TEC can get clear marching orders from the word “go’. The Tertiary Education Advisory Commission is currently pulling together its third report on that very subject and they will present it at the end of the month.

Conclusion

I intend for the release of the report to begin a period of real thought and debate about exactly what we are looking for, as a society, from our tertiary education system - broadly defined. I invite all of you to participate in that debate. This consultation process will inform the final shape of the strategic plan for the tertiary education system that the Government adopts.

And I repeat again it is a tertiary education system broadly defined - some would prefer it if we referred to as a tertiary education and training system, while others suggest that to continue to use both education and training sets up the latter as a poor relation. I'm still open to advice on that.

But whatever the terminology we use I want it to send a clear message that when we talk about tertiary education we are talking about what it is that you do, we are talking about foundation education for those who missed the education bus the first time around (or perhaps they were there but the pass failed to pick them up); we are talking about adult and community education, and we are talking about what happens in universities and in research institutes.

The Tertiary Education Commission will have to be light on its feet to accomplish the goals set for it in this strategic plan. It will need to respond to good ideas from the bottom up, but not be afraid to show leadership.

I invite all of you to be part of the dialogue and debate that is about asserting some agreed national priorities for the tertiary education system.

The stakeholders in that process could be well advised to look to the example of this industry, this ITO, and the other members of your learning family - it is an example of the way in which strategy and partnership can combine to meet the needs of learners, teachers, employers, and the community at large.

Ends


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