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Street: Vocational Ed and Training Research Forum

Hon Maryan Street

Associate Minister for Tertiary Education

4 March 2008 Speech

Address to the NZ Vocational Education and Training Research Forum

Te Papa, Wellington

Thank you for your kind introduction, Jeremy [Baker, Executive Director of the ITF].

Douglas Watt (Executive Director with the Conference Board of Canada), Dr Peter Coolbear (Director of Ako Aotearoa: The National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence), Forum presenters and attendees, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Kia ora and good morning to you all.

It is a pleasure to be here today to open the fifth New Zealand Vocational Education and Training Research Forum. The inaugural Forum was held in June 2004 and it is great to see that the Forum has not only survived, but matured and grown in stature since then.

I think it is also important to acknowledge the Industry Training Federation for taking the initiative in establishing this forum.

I would like to take a few minutes this morning to talk about the value and importance of research as a basis for good decision-making and policy-making around vocational education and training.

I will also say a few words about how we see this government’s investment in high-quality vocational education and training contributing to economic transformation and enhancing business productivity.

I know that there has been extensive discussion over the years around the relationship between research and policy making. In fact, it would probably be fair to say that this relationship is as old as the two disciplines themselves.

For all those taking part in that discussion, I applaud you. Discussion on this topic, ladies and gentlemen, is vital if we are to improve the linkages between researchers and policy makers.

For someone who seeks sound policy advice, I can unequivocally state that the better the research, the better the policy. And, by the same token, the more important the policy decision we have to make, the more important the research that policy decision is based on.

The Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey is one of those important pieces of research we just couldn’t do without. The survey is a key tool that we are using to inform our policy making.

It will influence many of our education and training programmes. I understand there will be a presentation on the findings of the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey during the conference.

What we do know from the Survey is that we have to improve these skills and this ís a priority for this Labour-led Government.

When the Prime Minister outlined her programme for the year to Parliament last month, she talked about our new Schools Plus programme, under which the age of participation in school, education or training will be lifted to eighteen.

Under Schools Plus, the school of the future will be the gateway to a range of education and training opportunities which are on offer, be it a youth apprenticeship, tertiary courses or programmes offered by the school itself.

Industry Training is also a top priority for the government. The government’s total investment in the Industry Training Fund will reach $180 million by 2010 – more than three times what it was in 2000.

On top of this, by 2010 around $50 million will be going into Modern Apprenticeships annually. This investment is paying off - a more highly skilled workforce is developing, which is something we are very proud of.

As at September 2007 more than 170,000 people were in industry training in New Zealand and the number is increasing steadily. A lot of this has been due to highly visible programmes like Modern Apprenticeships which have raised the profile of workplace learning.

The number of Industry Trainees and Apprentices achieving have risen impressively. From 2005 to 2006 qualification achievement increased 35% to over 35,000.

This success is not just in the numbers. Research on the effectiveness of initiatives to improve skills and increase qualification achievement is critical to their ongoing success.

Industry Training Organisations have an important contribution to make in this area through their developing Strategic Leadership Role. I understand that projects approved by the TEC through the first round of Investment Plans showed great promise, and we look forward to the results of this work.

This forum came about because of recognition among some of the key players that we needed to bring people together to generate a body of knowledge and a network of like-minded people - an excellent concept that is most obviously a success.

The government welcomes and encourages the research that is taking place. This is necessary and complementary to our increased investment in both vocational education and training, and the push for research excellence.

Our belief in the importance of research is manifest in our Performance-Based Research Fund for tertiary education. The PBRF ensures that research excellence in the tertiary sector is encouraged and rewarded. This year we have put more than $200 million into the tertiary education sector though this fund.

The value of research can be greatly enhanced by partnerships - between policy advisors and researchers and between researchers and businesses. This government is committed to continuing to build these relationships.

The reforms in the tertiary sector were possible because of the strong partnerships between government, the education sector and industry.

The Unified Skills Strategy is a prime example of where we can use research to assist decision making as we roll out this important policy platform. This is being developed though a partnership between the government, Business New Zealand, the Council of Trade Unions and the Industry Training Federation.

The Literacy and Life Skills Survery has found that 800,000 of our workforce do not have the literacy skills they need. It’s no coincidence that Literacy, Language and Numeracy is one of the core planks of the Skills Strategy, and we will be looking to make traction in this area quickly.

Industry, and Industry Training Organisations, will have a leading role in ensuring that these literacy solutions work.

Industry Training Organisations are in a position to become the industry voice on education and training for the tertiary system and drive the skills agenda for New Zealand industry. The strategic leadership demonstrated by the key role the Industry Training Federation has taken in establishing and organising this forum is but one example.

I am proud to be part of the work on the Skills Strategy which I believe will be a major cornerstone of our continued economic transformation.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted that you are getting together here at this seminal forum to discuss and exchange ideas on research in vocational education and training. And I am delighted that you have such high-calibre speakers here to bring fresh perspectives to our thinking.

It is as exciting as it is necessary that we gain an understanding of international trends, for example, and it is in this context that I would like to thank the forum’s key note speaker, Douglas Watt, for making the long journey from Canada to share his insights into research in small and medium sized enterprises here with us today.

Before I close, and at the risk of preaching to the converted, I would like to stress the point that excellent research is a key to the transformation of New Zealand into an innovative and dynamic economy as well as meeting our social and cultural aspirations.

This is a big responsibility for us all, and, without wanting to put on too much pressure, it’s a big responsibility on you. Without you, we simply will not be able to stand tall in this competitive global market. We need you. We need you to be fresh in your thinking, alert in your observations, astute in your judgements.

We need you to make a major contribution to the development of the educational and vocational sector. Not just for the sake of our country, but also for the sake of New Zealanders on a personal level.

I believe passionately in the power of education to change people’s lives. It is the key to opening many doors, to realising your professional ambitions and enhancing your contribution to family and community life.

The government recognises how important tertiary education is to the lives of New Zealanders.

To reflect this, since 2002 government funding for tertiary education has risen to more than $3 billion a year, not including the investment we make to support students through the student loans scheme.

Don’t get me wrong – this is not just about money. Yes, money is vital if we want to succeed. But more importantly, it is about the individual effort, our dedication and our commitment to excel. It is about making a contribution to the common good.

Your conference is that kind of contribution, is the kind of opportunity we need to take to make the most of our abilities.

I thank you very much for inviting me here today. No doubt you will enjoy all the wonderful sights and activities our capital city has to offer, but more importantly, you now have a chance to compare notes with your peers, to learn and to share your own learning with others.

I wish you all the very best for your conference. Tena koutou katoa.


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