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Media Release – Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre

Media Release – Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre

Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre remains committed to delivering quality training that meets the growing needs of the agricultural sector for skilled safe workers, and welcomes the Tertiary Education Commission’s (TEC) commitment to working with it.

Interim Chief Executive Dr Linda Sissons says investigations by Taratahi and the TEC revealed some cases of incorrect or over funding of some courses over six years of delivery. Taratahi has agreed to repay $7.5 million in funding.

“New Zealand Qualification Authority (NZQA) and the TEC confirm there is no question about the quality of the programmes, the teaching, or the qualifications awarded to students,” says Dr Sissons. “This is about administrative processes and the systems behind them.”

“Taratahi has a unique ‘farm as classroom’ training approach and we’re working with the TEC on a repayment regime and a plan for how we can build on our strengths and continue delivering training that is highly valued by the sector.”

Dr Sissons says in one case 67 tutors were enrolled as students in a programme offered at Taratahi in 2013. While this is not uncommon, Dr Sissons says the process was not properly followed. “Someone should have realised we were not fully compliant and fixed it.”

In the other cases, students funded as full-time were able to complete their studies and gain their qualifications in less than the approved full-time programme hours.

“Many of our students are already working and have skills which mean they can reach the industry and educational standards in less than the time required for the full-time programme.” Dr Sissons says the mistake was not adjusting the enrolments accordingly, and this resulted in overpayment.

“The failure seems to have been the result of inadequate monitoring and reporting controls.”

Taratahi Chair Mavis Mullins says the Board was concerned when it learned of the matter. It took immediate steps to find out what went wrong and to support the management team to make sure the same issues were not repeated.

“This should not have happened and we’re confident actions taken since will ensure they don’t happen again.

“As Chair and Board we believe the Interim Chief Executive and management team have acted to ensure we are well placed to continue providing quality agricultural training to the communities we serve – we have confidence in the Centre and our stakeholders should as well.

“The Board welcomes the TEC’s commitment to the continuance and ongoing viability of Taratahi, and we look forward to working with it on that.”

Taratahi has 135 staff and offers national qualifications to over 2000 students each year who graduate with safe, competency-based skills that match industry needs.

Farms are increasingly complex businesses and the need for relevant and practical skills will only continue to rise. Learning safe and competency-based practical skills is hugely important. The Taratahi General Farm Skills programme, in particular, has enabled workers in the sector to improve their skills.

“We have a proud history and reputation for delivering quality agricultural training programmes that are relevant to the farming sector, and we are working with TEC and NZQA to ensure that continues.”


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