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Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce Supports Education Reforms

The Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce says that with many Hutt Valley businesses struggling to find skilled employees, the government’s proposed reforms for the vocational education sector offer a positive opportunity for the business sector to work more closely with their local polytechnics.

Helen Down, Chief Executive of the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce, says a recent business confidence survey shows that Hutt Valley businesses are struggling to get the skilled, work ready employees they need.

“Labour shortages, and finding the right staff, is the single biggest barrier to improving business confidence in the Hutt Valley,” says Helen. “In a recent survey of members, 57% of businesses said they were finding it harder to get skilled staff and specialist employees.”

“As a national centre for technology-based businesses, it is important to our business community that the reforms deliver the right changes that enable our young people to access local jobs and add value to our local businesses.”

“Our local polytechnics, WelTec and Open Polytechnic, are a key part of our innovative and progressive business community and have a huge role to play when it comes to solving labour and skills shortages.”

Helen says the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce has had good relationships with WelTec and Open Polytechnic for many years. “We have always worked closely with them, and the Chamber has a lot of value it can add by increasing that engagement as part of the opportunities highlighted in the government’s new proposed vocational education structure.”

“The Open Polytechnic, based in the Hutt Valley, is a unique organisation in the tertiary education system as the specialist national provider of vocational distance learning. Open Polytechnic plays a vital role in workforce upskilling and re-skilling of 30,000 learners throughout New Zealand.”

“Open Polytechnic is a major contributor to the Hutt Valley economy,” says Helen. “Along with local and national upskilling, Open Polytechnic has also developed world-leading education technology platforms. Their contribution to the region was recognised when they won the Innovation and Technology award at the 2018 Wellington Region Business Excellence Awards.”

Open Polytechnic Chief Executive Dr Caroline Seelig says, “Open Polytechnic appreciates the continued support of the local business community, and in particular the work of the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce in representing the skills needs of business. As one of the largest employers in the Hutt Valley with an annual turnover of over $60m, we make a significant contribution to the local economy. As a national provider of online and distance education we are committed to continuing to create innovative and world leading distance education programmes that support the skills needs of employers at a local and national level.”

WelTec Chief Executive Chris Gosling has welcomed the reform proposal and particularly the opportunity for a fundamental rethink of how vocational education is provided in our communities and regions. He says, “In one form or another WelTec has been a proud part of the Hutt Valley community for over a century. During that time we have contributed enormously as a provider of applied skills training to serve local business and industry and as a major employer. However current systems and funding often inhibit an effective training response for learners and employers with 21st century needs. In particular, the artificial separation of in-work and off-job training systems creates barriers for trainees and businesses.”

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to reboot our vocational education system and ensure it is flexible, relevant and future focussed. I encourage everyone who has an interest in building a high skilled, productive workforce and a strong, healthy community to get involved in this reform process.

The Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce is currently surveying its members and will be putting in a submission on their behalf during the Reform of Vocational Education consultation period.

“We want to ensure that the Hutt Valley business voice is heard, and that the outcome of the reforms help to ensure we have increased access to work ready graduates that deliver the skills we need to help our local economy thrive,” says Helen.

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