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Trevor Mallard Speech to ITF Members Forum

Hon Trevor Mallard
5 April 2005 Speech Notes

Improving quality and relevance of tertiary education

Speech to the Industry Training Federation Members Forum, Hotel Intercontinental, Wellington

Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you, to discuss the changes that are afoot in the tertiary education system.

It’s been pleasing to be able to point recently to the success of industry training - as an important component of tertiary education.

Industry Training and Modern Apprenticeships figures for 2004 show that thousands more people are participating in industry training than ever before in this country.

I think we need to keep reminding ourselves (and others) of that fact.

During 2004, 139,597 trainees were involved in Industry Training and Modern Apprenticeships, compared with 126,870 in 2003.

The 10 per cent increase over one year confirms that the industry training partnership remains relevant and essential to sustained economic growth (the growth is even more impressive when you compare it to 2000, when 81,343 trainees participated).

We should all share the credit for this success.

The Labour-led government has doubled industry training funding since 1999 - by 2007, $136.7 million will be invested annually.

Modern Apprenticeships has been successfully established and government funding for Modern Apprenticeships will reach $33 million in 2007.

Participation is set to increase during 2005 - we are on target for 8,500 Modern Apprentices by June 2005.

You have continued to develop your relationships with business, employees and training providers.

The figures confirm that the work of industry training organisations is having the desired impact - and industry itself is continuing to invest in training and supporting the strategy.

Our strong economic growth and low unemployment have created particular challenges - government and industry have a shared interest in ensuring that strategies are in place to overcome skill shortages and increase productivity.

The growth in Modern Apprenticeships and Industry Training is evidence that this is happening - we know that some of the benefits will take some time to flow through to skill supply statistics.

But it does mean that New Zealand industries can plan with more certainty - they know that the skilled workforce they need is coming on stream.

I know that many of you here today have played important roles in creating the industry training model we have today.

The training system is now firmly established and represents a solid option for workplace learning in this country - it’s a model that many other countries view with admiration.

I also know that you are not the sort to rest on your laurels - but I do suggest you pause and reflect on the success of the system.

But I want to talk with you today about where we are heading.

I am pleased to announce to your conference today the release of the new 2005 - 2007 Statement of Tertiary Education Priorities.

Most of the messages in this STEP will not be news to you - but I want to emphasise that the key themes apply as much to workplace training as they do to courses within education providers.

This STEP focuses on quality, relevance and innovation.

We aim to ensure that current levels of participation in tertiary education result in more learners achieving qualifications of high quality and high relevance to our country's needs and the needs of individuals.

Government agencies, tertiary education organisations and business and industry have joint responsibility to work together to inject quality and innovation into the tertiary education scene.

- The STEP puts a firm focus on high quality education and training to ensure that learners, taxpayers and the government get the best value possible.

- We are also putting the spotlight on relevance linked to national needs.

- And we aim to support innovation in all aspects of New Zealand’s social and economic life - and ITOs certainly have a role to play there.

The government will continue to invest in Modern Apprenticeships and Industry Training, particularly in order to fill skill and labour shortages. It will be a priority for the relevant ITOs, along with polytechnics and other providers, to arrange relevant and high quality technical and trades education and training.

The challenge for government, schools and ITOs is how we can ensure that a full cross-section of people choose industry training. Government, business groups and the whole education sector must work together to shift public perceptions of the value of technical and trades training if we are to ensure future skill shortages are minimised.

Addressing skill shortages is essential, and to do this we must have high quality engagement between tertiary education organisations and the business community.

At the local and national level, individual Tertiary Education Organisations must all work closely with businesses, professional associations, and local authorities to identify regional and national skills needs and respond to the future shape of the regional and national workforce.

Collaboration, innovation and plain hard work - these are the keys to solving skill shortages, and these are the keys to the future of vocational education and training in New Zealand.

Your strategic leadership role will also be key in promoting and supporting the innovation that we seek in workplace learning.

This may mean enabling and encouraging learners to staircase to qualifications at higher levels, through industry training or other tertiary provision.

You will have heard of measures to enhance the quality of tertiary teaching.

We already have Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards and by the middle of 2005 you will hear more about the National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence.

“Teaching Excellence” sounds like the target is just teachers in classrooms - but it need not be.

I suggest that one of the measures of quality and excellence in workplace training is the quality of trainers and assessors, and the services they provide.

A focus on quality, relevance and innovation does not mean we ignore access - we want to maintain and increase participation, especially in terms of numbers of young people entering the trades.

I see that as a major challenge for us all - turning around the perception that school leavers who sign up as Modern Apprentices or get jobs and engage in formal workplace learning must have been “unsuccessful” at school. Or that they are entering a career pathway that is less valuable than academic, university-level education.

I don’t accept these views and I am sure that you don’t either.

We also need to think hard about ways of encouraging people from different communities into trades training - communities where there is not a history of following a trades career.

For instance, Maori trade training has worked well in the past. However, Maori have not picked up Modern Apprenticeships to the extent they could have, apart from in a narrow range of trades. Similarly, because there is not the tradition of trades in Pacific communities, apprenticeship numbers are not what they could be.

Except for hairdressing, the trades have not been as successful a careers pathway for women. Why is that, and what more can we do to widen the attractiveness of this sort of career?

As far as traditional trades are concerned, it is probably because women were never welcomed, as well as many women not wanting to get their hands dirty. It may also be women are still not given the chance - by their fathers and teachers in their early years - to learn to be comfortable and confident with machinery and tools and engines.

So what I want to stress is that we need to work hard to recognise and promote a variety of high quality career pathways.

I want to mention a few areas that I know you are interested in - and relate them to quality and excellence.

You will be aware that the Tertiary Education Commission is undertaking a review of overlapping provision.

I am obviously interested to ensure that government and the taxpayer are receiving the maximum value for money - but also that trainees and learners have appropriate opportunities and receive quality teaching.

It is significant that the TEC is working with the sector to identify and address unnecessary competition and duplication - I doubt that we can achieve what we want to achieve simply by coming down with tighter funding criteria.

I want to remind you that the tertiary reforms we are in the midst of is underpinned by the expectation that there will be enhanced collaboration.

Addressing unnecessary competition and duplication is not simply a cost-saving issue - and it must not be simply about patch protection.

It must be about a shared, principled vision about how best to utilise current tertiary pathways - about how to deliver excellent training that is relevant to the needs of learners, industries, communities and regions.

I’d be very pleased if an outcome of the review of overlapping provision was a new set of partnerships between ITOs and education providers - especially if they are the sort of arrangements that enhance the quality of training and encourage innovation.

Which brings me to strategic leadership.

I’m aware that you are still working with the TEC to look at how to use the bulk of the $1 million of Innovation and Development funding available to best enable ITOs to undertake your new strategic leadership function.

I’ll be watching your progress with interest.

But I wonder if this really is a new role - looking back over your 12 or more years of history, I suggest that ITOs have had a good deal of strategic input.

The 2002 legislation included a strategic leadership role for ITOs because you were well placed to provide leadership - not in the hope that you’d learn how to do it.

The overlapping provision issue - and the focus on quality, relevance and innovation - provide you with opportunities to demonstrate strategic vision, to confirm that there is room for everyone, that we are all in this together and that the pursuit of quality, excellence and value for money are necessary and sufficient drivers.

Again, my thanks for this chance to meet you all.

ENDS

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