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Government announces new vocational education structures

By Rebecca Howard

Aug. 1 (BusinessDesk) - Up to seven industry-governed Workforce Development Councils will be formed by 2022 to help tackle skill shortages and a mismatch between training currently provided and the needs of employers, the government says.

The new councils will replace and expand most of the roles of the existing industry training organisations. Through these councils, industry and employers will identify skills needs, set standards, approve qualifications and credentials, and influence funding decisions.

“Vocational education, trades training and on-the-job training have been allowed to drift for too long," Education Minister Chris Hipkins said. "These are long-term challenges that this government is committed to fixing. The comprehensive changes we are making will address the widespread skills shortages across most industry sectors.'

He said the aim is to address a need for people to learn new skills as automation and artificial intelligence becomes more prevalent and as the country's regions are "increasingly struggling" to find enough skilled people to keep their economies strong.

"New Zealand needs to lift productivity. For that to happen, we need more companies to be involved in training and taking on more apprentices," said Hipkins. He added, however, that almost nine out of ten of businesses are not training staff through industry schemes but 71 percent of employers surveyed say there is, or will soon be, a skills shortage in their area.

The current system is too fragmented and difficult to engage with, he said. He noted that the polytechnic and industry training systems work and are funded independently of each other and qualifications are often inconsistent and not transferable across the country.

The changes have been developed after a public consultation. The government received 2,904 submissions and met more than 5,000 people in approximately 190 conversations.

The new system will also see Regional Skills Leadership Groups formed to represent regional interests and work across education, immigration and welfare systems in each region to identify local skill needs and make sure the system is delivering the right mix of education and training to meet them.

The country's 16 institutes of technology and polytechnics will be brought together to operate as a single national campus network. A new Institute will start on April 1, 2020 and will provide on-the-job and off-the-job learning. The head office will not be in Auckland or Wellington.

The role of supporting workplace learning will shift from industry training organisations to training providers. Centres of Vocational Excellence will be established at regional campuses to drive innovation and expertise, and improve linkages between education, industry and research.

Maori will be included as key partners, including through Te Taumata Aronui, a Maori-Crown tertiary education group.

Finally, the funding system will be simplified and fairer, Hipkins said. "We will work with everyone with an interest in vocational education over the next two to three years to develop and implement a new funding system."

Hipkins said a reform of this size and complexity has to be implemented methodically and in stages and will take three to four years to get underway. As a result, learners should enrol in the education provider of their choice as they normally would this year and next year, including in multi-year programmes.



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