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ITO chair issues wake-up call to protect training for Maori

Mr Napia supports a call to meet in Hopuhopu on Thursday this week and invites Māori leaders to participate in a hui being hosted by the Waikato-Tainui College of Research and Development, and organised by Te Rautaki Whakaroopu Māori. This industry training sector group has called the hui to discuss a response to the radical reforms.

“With our hosts, we share the goals of increasing Māori qualification achievement levels, and employment opportunities for Māori,” Mr Napia said.

“We have strong evidence that Māori choose to earn while they learn, rather than head off to a classroom. Around 22,500 Māori enrol with ITOs every year, compared to only 15,000 at polytechs – which leave our people with hefty student loans and no guarantee of employment.

“Not only that but fewer Māori complete their qualifications at polytech than they do in industry training – which delivers work-ready graduates who are already employed, earning and paying tax, and free of student debt.

“The ITO that I chair, Skills Active, doesn’t just get Māori into qualifications, we get them completing. Skills Active has achieved parity between Māori and non-Māori completions. No polytech or university can claim that. We know what we’re doing is working, so why did the government NOT come to the ITO sector to ask for and look at solutions that work?

“Instead we have been presented with an ideologically-driven argument with no evidence to support it, in a Cabinet Paper that even Treasury criticised for its lack of analysis and lack of focus on funding implications.

“The ITO sector represents the interests of 22,500 Māori who each year reap the benefits of industry training, giving us a huge mandate and a responsibility to protect the interests of our rangatahi,” he said.

“Māori will be disproportionately affected by the Minister’s proposed reforms, yet he has not given us a shred of evidence as to why he wants to dismantle the ITOs and hand responsibility for industry training to a government-appointed bureaucracy based in Wellington.

“We like the idea of a fairer funding system, and we heartily support a greater skills leadership role for the industry. However, we want to actively co-design a vocational education system that we know will work for Māori. We need to keep industry training owned and delivered by industry. This once-in-a-generation opportunity for a step change in delivery of vocational education demands more than a six-week consultation period.

“Indeed, the so-called ‘consultation’ process overseen by the Minister is questionable, as indicated by the fact that TEC held its first Iwi Māori meeting, which took place in Te Taitokerau, more than three weeks into the six-week consultation period. Furthermore, the only item on their pānui was the structure of Regional Leadership Groups rather than the issues in the reform proposal itself,” Mr Napia said.

“This reeks of predetermination, as was pointed out by Dr Shane Reti in Parliament last week. That was also pointed out by hui participants including a prominent Tai Tokerau iwi leader who called the meeting a ‘disaster’,” he said.

Mr Napia urged Māori leaders supportive of industry training for their people to contact Minister Hipkins and their local MPs to express their outrage at the government’s unseemly haste.

“We, the ITOs, are asking the government to bring Māori onboard to co-design a system that works,” Mr Napia said.

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