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Real Life Learning – Gateways From School To Work

Steve Maharey Address to the Real Life Learning Mayor's Education Forum. New Plymouth District Council Mayoral Chambers.


I am delighted to be here with you this afternoon at the Taranaki Vocational Education Trust, Mayors Forum.

Let me acknowledge Her Worship the Mayor, Claire Stewart, one of the leading politicians in this country. Let me say how much I appreciate the leadership that she has given within the local government sector, and particularly around issues of regional and community economic and social development. At a personal level I have valued her constructive assistance on a number of issues. I sense that we have things right when a letter arrives from Claire, and I am confident that she will also let us know when we don't get things right.

Let me also acknowledge my colleague the Member of Parliament for New Plymouth, not just as someone who is a passionate advocate for his electorate and for the Taranaki province more generally, and not just because of the leadership that he has shown in a number of key portfolio areas – both within opposition and now in Government – but also because of the mana that he brings to the subject matter before us today.

What is that subject – I think that the purpose statement for the Education Trust captures the essence of it. The purpose of the Trust is to contribute:

to economic performance by fostering excellent and relevant vocational education in Taranaki.

Harry Duynhoven is someone who brings not just a passion for the excellence and relevance you seek to foster, but a personal knowledge of what it means to apply skills and knowledge to the conception and execution of technical tasks in an educational and in a business environment – that means he knows about 'real life learning'.

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And that is the theme of today's meeting – exploring ideas relating to:

 The need for relationships between workforce, industry and schools to ensure demand-led education

 To consider the role of schools in vocational education, and

 The role of schools in 'whole person education' and development of all children rather than focusing on achievers

What I want to do today is to outline the Government's intentions in the area of school to work transition. I also want to take the opportunity today to make an announcement about the piloting of a new programme, Gateway.

Gateway is expressly about building relationships between industry and schools, lifting the capacity of schools to respond to vocational education and training needs of learners, and in a manner that is consistent with the realities of the labour market today, and the emerging realities of the labour market of the future.

But let me start with the third of the issues that you have identified as going to 'real life learning' – the role of schools in 'whole person' education.

Getting the balance right

Let me state quite categorically - and with you might quite correctly note, a measure of annoyance – that I have little patience for those who see the discussion around vocational education and training in schools as about catering to the needs of those who are under-achievers.

Vocational education and training is not a default option for those who can't make it in more academic subject areas.

And let me also state quite categorically that to raise the issue of vocational education and training in schools is not to deny the importance of the education of the 'whole person'. Schools are about encouraging independence of thought and action. Universities may well be vested with the statutory authority to act as the critic and conscience of society, but schools are the nurseries out of which critical and inquiring minds emerge.

I would like to think that schools produce young adults who have independence of thought and spirit.

But I also want schools to produce young adults who have the requisite skills and knowledge to participate in work and in society. That means producing students who are educated to the highest possible levels in what are popularly known as the basics.

If students have the ability then they should leave school with some fundamental capacities like the ability to read, to write and to count.

Let me emphasise that I think most schools are doing a very effective job.

But the world has changed.

When I was leaving school you could get an entry-level job and perform very well at it without the kind of literacy and numeracy skills that we require today. Old jobs have gone, and those that are there require levels of skill and knowledge at a much higher threshold level than was previously the case.

What I am saying is that we want students coming out of school at that new threshold of personal capacity.

And we want them coming out of school with a well-rounded education – knowing a great deal about the history and the present of this place – Aotearoa – New Zealand, a South West Pacific nation, and about the communities and interests that go to make this place what it is.

I want students to come out of School with an appetite for inquiry and with the capacity (literacy and numeracy) that allows them to participate constructively and critically.

It is all a question of balance.

If I was an employer looking for someone to start in an entry-level position, say in a manufacturing concern, I would want that prospective employee to be literate and numerate, with a desire to learn.

And I would want them to be someone who, if they didn't already possess an understanding of the disciplines of work (getting to work on time, having a capacity to work cooperatively as a member of a team), then to be able to acquire those disciplines quite quickly.

And I would want that person to be someone prepared to suggest changes in the workplace, and for that matter, to raise immediately and assertively any concerns about inappropriate treatment of an individual or group within the workforce.

If we can accept that it is simply a matter of balance, and if we arrive at a consensus that says – vocational education and training is not a default option, and it doesn't deny the importance of 'whole person' education, then I believe that we will be well placed to forge the kinds of partnerships that we are here to foster today.

I want those partnerships, particularly between schools and business, to be one of the key ways in which we create school to work opportunities. And while I want them to be based on a respect for the independence integrity of the education system, I also believe that strong and effective partnerships between schools, other tertiary providers, business, and members of the official family of government advisors should not detract from that independence.

So how do we get there, and what is the Government going to do by way of public policies?

Getting the right answers depends on asking the right questions. Having the right solution depends on correctly identifying the problem.

I have a simple model that I use to make sense of the challenges facing the Government in economic and social policy.

The objective is to individually and collectively we raise the human capability of our citizens.

Capability is delivered when we increase capacity (individual, community, organisational) we provide opportunities, and we match the two

Capability is about capacity and opportunity.

I think that the school-work relationship provides one of the clearest examples of the way in which as a community (and I see Government as one of the partners in this equation) we can address capacity and opportunity issues.

We want to use vocational education and training to lift personal capacity (and we need organisational capacity to deliver the programmes) and we want to use partnerships to create the kinds of opportunities and matching that allows capacity to be reflected in a lift in capability.

Successful transition from school to work

Recent OECD research suggests that there are six key elements of successful transition systems:

1. A healthy economy providing job-rich growth
2. Well organised pathways that connect initial education with work and further study
3. Widespread opportunities to combine study with workplace experience
4. Tightly knit safety nets for those most at risk
5. Good information and guidance
6. Effective institutions and processes

Let me comment on the second of these – well organised pathways that connect initial education with work and further study.

The OECD research suggests that no one type of pathway – and they identify apprenticeship, school-based vocational education and training, and general education as illustrating the range of options – appears to hold the key to successful transition outcomes.

Let me quote from the report:

"The chances of solid transition outcomes being achieved are higher where young people have available to them learning pathways and qualification frameworks that are clearly defined, well organised and open, designed and developed in a lifelong learning perspective, with tight connections to post-school destinations, whether work or further study"

The report goes on to note that

"Tight connections between upper secondary pathways and tertiary study, as well as tight connections between upper secondary pathways and jobs, are important"

My objective is to ensure that the policies we develop and implement as a Government encourage successful transitions.

That means, building on the OECD research, clearly defined and well organised pathways that encourage tight connections between school, further education and training, and jobs.

The transition from school to work – policies to build capacity and increase opportunities

My objective is to ensure that we so have organised pathways into vocational education and training.

What I want to see is a much greater range of school based pathways, and I am determined to ensure that funding is used to provide for vocational and academic pathways.

Our young people are staying on in school for longer, and I want to ensure that the education and training they receive is appropriate to their requirements.

I do not want to place our senior secondary school students in streams that are designated as having a higher or lower status and out of which they are unable to break.

But I do want students to have the choice – I want a student who is keen on taking up a career in journalism to be able to pick up unit standards towards a Diploma in Journalism while they are still at school.

I want the student who is keen on an engineering apprenticeship to be able to pick up unit standards through a work-based programme while they are still at school; I want the student who is keen on a career in the forestry industry to be able to start down her or his preferred career path while they are still at school.

And, consistent with the views I expressed earlier about the importance of a broad and well–rounded education, I want them to have the choice of taking a course in Te Reo or in English literature at the same time.

Let me outline some of the initiatives that the Government is taking.

The Government is working on an Education and Training Leaving Age Framework. Les there be any misunderstanding, let me emphasise that no consideration is being given to regulating for a higher school leaving age. But our objective is to ensure that if you are under 20, 'doing nothing' is not a default option. We want all young people to be in education, training, or a job.

Polices designed to assist the transition from school to work are part of that broader framework.

I want to comment on initiatives in three areas:

 A new Gateway Programme

 The Secondary/Tertiary Alignment Resource (STAR), and

 Modern Apprenticeships


Gateway is a new programme that addressed the need for more structured work-based learning opportunities in the senior secondary school.

The key objectives of the programme are to:

 Allow students to participate in work-based learning, including assessment and recognition of that learning

 Integrate work-based learning with the students' wider course of study

 Test different arrangements for work-based learning, including different environments

We are about to establish pilots to trial two alternative, but complementary approaches to work-based learning.

 The first is a school-driven approach

 And the second is a brokerage approach, allowing the participation of pother interested parties such and Industry training Organisations, polytechnics, or community providers\

The first of these – a facilitated model, will involve Skill New Zealand contracting with schools to deliver work-based learning opportunities leading to assessment for students. Skill New Zealand regional staff will support schools in finding and developing employer networks to support this learning, facilitating partnerships between the parties involved: schools, employers and ITOs. Skill New Zealand will be able to provide neutral advice about different educational settings, and the accountability arrangements will be relatively simple.

The brokerage model will involve Skill New Zealand contracting with a third party to work with schools to arrange the delivery of work-based learning opportunities leading to assessment for students. This will involve supporting schools in funding and developing employer networks to support this learning activity. The third party could be a Polytechnic, Community provider, or an Industry Training Organisation. Whiles this may involve additional accountability arrangements, it provides the flexibility to support the involvement of other organisations who can make an effective contribution to work-based learning for senior school students.

Both these models will have the following features:

 The workplace learning and assessment will be integrated with the general educational provision in the participating school

 A learning plan will be developed by the parties to support this integrated approach for the student

 Assessment will occur against qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework, and will count towards the National Certificate in Educational Achievement

 The participating employers training systems will have to be quality assured to allow assessment for students to happen, or external assessment made available for students

I anticipate that by December we will see the finalisation of pilot arrangements, with implementation to proceed for the 2001 school year.

Participating schools and employers will be required to report against the number of credits achieved and progress towards positive destinations – in terms of education, training, or employment.

These measures, along with qualitative information gathered during the pilots, will allows for evaluations to be completed – an interim evaluation in early 2002 based on the 2001 pilots, and a full evaluation by March 2003 based on the completed pilot programmes.

Within the next week to 10 days The Ministry of Education and Skill NZ will jointly write to the Principals of all decile 1-5 schools, inviting them to express their interest in participating in a pilot. In addition an official notice calling for expressions of interest will be placed in the Education Gazette.

The Ministry and Skill NZ will bring together a small group of principals of low decile schools to discuss the information schools will need to have to make good judgements about this expression of interest.

Schools will have four weeks to register their interest. And following this Skill NZ will consider these expressions of interest and select a range of schools to ensure national coverage and a wide range of schools and proposals.

Skill NZ regional office will then work with school in the pilots to develop the range of initiatives.

The Secondary Tertiary Alignment Resource (STAR)

The STAR policy became operational in 1996, with the single aim of allowing secondary students' access to what are relatively speaking, more costly tertiary and work-based learning experiences. STAR was originally designed to promote funding neutrality between schools and other learning environments. This was to be achieved by 'topping-up' the funding provided for tertiary students to equal that of the tertiary sector – hence 'alignment resource'.

It has been used for this, but it has also allowed the development of some innovative arrangements within schools. This has led to different interpretations about the objectives of STAR, with different groups placing different expectations about variety of subject, educational setting, or work experience opportunities on the programme.

Schools apply for funding for courses that meet the STAR criteria. Programmes supported, in full or part, by STAR funding must lead towards credit against unit standards on the national Qualifications Framework, or equivalent qualifications at the tertiary level.

STAR funding is not provided to fund courses that are conventionally taught in secondary schools.

There has been very little on-going monitoring of the STAR programme and no comprehensive evaluation to date.

That said, anecdotal reports indicate that there is a great deal of excellent work being done funded out of the STAR initiative.

The information that I have been provided with suggest that most of the funding is being used to purchase unit standard based courses – 80% of the total EFTS enrolled in STAR courses in 2000 were in courses at levels 1 to 3 of the national Qualifications Framework, with less than 2.5% of the EFTS funded were for courses at levels 4 to 7. The remaining 14.1 % were for non-unit standard courses – mostly university courses and courses provided by the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand.

Courses in the service sector field attracted the largest number of EFTS –or 20.1%. "Learning about New Zealand as a travel destination", and "method of food hygiene" were the most popular units.

The second most popular field of study was 'core generic', where the most popular unit standards were around "producing a plan for one's own future", or "producing a curriculum vitae".

I am aware concerns have been raised about the impact of the Gateway pilots on the existing STAR funding.

I have directed Officials from the Ministry of Education, in consultation with the Department of Labour and Skill New Zealand to revisit the criteria for the Secondary Tertiary Alignment Resource (STAR) and report back to Cabinet no later than 31 October this year on options for amending the criteria, addressing issues such as equity, access to vocational and general education in the senior secondary school, and the need to ensure the most effective use of the funding.

Let me emphasise that the review of the criteria should be seen as an opportunity to build on some of the excellent work that has been done utilising STAR funds. Let me also emphasise that I fully expect that those who have been closest to STAR funded programmes in schools – careers and transition teachers in particular – will be provided with an opportunity to contribute to that review.

I fully appreciate that suggestions of a review may, for some presage changes of a kind that might not be welcomed by those who have worked hard to develop a wider range of learning opportunities and make secondary school more relevant to the needs of learners, and indeed employers and the wider community.

To those who have asked that this work be recognised, that funding arrangements like STAR continue, and that Government continue to support initiatives designed to facilitate a smoother transition between school and work I have a very simple message. Neither my Cabinet colleagues nor I have any desire to do anything other than to support the efforts of careers and transition teachers.

We don't have all the answers, and we are open to advice. Some have suggested that the STAR funding should be formularised and allocated as part of the operational grant. Others would suggest that without some measure of tagging and a monitoring and reporting regime there will not be the kind of accountability that we require. For my part I am concerned that, while there is plenty of anecdotal evidence about the positive outcomes being generated from STAR funds, there is a paucity of quantitative research data and so far as I am aware no research examining post-school trajectories for those who have participated in STAR funded programmes. Outcome or impact evaluation data must be generated.

And let me emphasise that, over the short-run, no school will be disadvantaged as a result of the decision to re-prioritise some of the STAR funding and invest it in the Gateway pilots. No changes will need to be made to the initial STAR funding at the time of Gateway's introduction for the first 6 months of 2001.

No school will be disadvantaged in the STAR allocations for the first 6 months of 2001.

I started with one new initiative - Gateway - and I hope that I have allayed any concerns that there may be about the future of the STAR resource. Let me conclude with some comments on a new initiative that Gateway and STAR may open doors to - Modern Apprenticeships

Modern Apprenticeships

Industry training is an essential component of the knowledge society. Individuals, by acquiring new vocational skills and developing their capabilities throughout their lives, benefit themselves as employees and their employers.

There has been a sharp increase over the last six months in industry training.

Not only has the expanding economy increased demand, there has been a continued expansion of industry training into industries which previously did not have systemic training arrangements.

One area of industry training in particular causes concern. One-quarter of all 16- and 17- year-olds and one-third of that age Maori are not in education or employment. Such a high percentage of school-leavers receiving little or no skills improvement is alarming.

This is the background to the Labour-Alliance Government's announced Modern Apprenticeship programme - a move targeting the youth labour market. It will increase the opportunities for young people in particular to undertake training that will enable them to participate in and contribute to the knowledge society.

At present the number of apprentice-style trainees is roughly the same as it was in the 1980s but there has been a significant change in the age-level.

Only about 10% of trainees are aged under twenty.

Over 50% are aged 25 and older. Indeed nearly 20% are over 40. Clearly under the present system employers had gone for older, more experienced people.

While acknowledging the concern, ITOs found it difficult persuading employers to hire younger people. In passing it should be said, most employers are also parents.

The situation was a chicken and egg one. If school-leavers couldn't get work experience then they were unlikely to develop the skills and attitudes expected of them by employers.

If the trend continued we were on a path to polarised work force with a permanent under-class, unproductive and resource-costly. We were not prepared to sit back and allow such a significant segment of this generation of young people drift off into long-term unemployment or a low-skilled future.

We also were aware that industry leaders had been saying for some time that if government wanted more young people to be trained it would have to pay for it.

Apprenticeship is a tried and tested system for young people and existing workers to gain recognised and valued qualifications in a work environment. The small size of most New Zealand firms means that training arrangements must be flexible and oriented towards the realities of the workplace.

The key feature of the new scheme is that there will be 'co-ordinators' whose task will be to liase between employers and their apprentices. These people will help recruit and place apprentices and then support and counsel them through their training, both on-job and off-job. These people will both reduce the costs and risks to employers.

This apprenticeship scheme is what it says it is – modern.

Instead of being time-served, it will be standards-based and training will be linked to the National Qualifications Framework. That is, when apprentices reach the required competence they receive industry-recognised, nationwide certification.

Modern apprenticeships will complement, rather than replace, existing industry training and other tertiary education pathways.

They will be in new high technology areas as well as in the traditional trades.

The government is looking to industry, education and training providers - especially the polytechnics and ITOs - local authorities and Iwi to develop partnerships around the delivery of this initiative.

Modern Apprenticeship pilots have already started, there are now Modern Apprentices on the ground – indeed I met with a number of modern apprentices, their employers and apprentice coordinators in Dunedin yesterday. I look forward to coming back to the Taranaki to celebrate Modern Apprentices in this region.


I am excited by the challenge of developing pathways through partnerships. That is what this forum is all about, and I want to do everything that I can to assist you. Vocational education and training in schools is about developing partnerships. Assisting the community of educators and employers in this region will require a partnership between that community and central and local Government.

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