Reform proposals carry opportunities – but to dismantle a thriving ITO sector is illogical

February 14, 2019

Skills Active Aotearoa, the ITO for sport, recreation and performing arts, applauds the Education Minister’s decision to make a much-needed step-change to stem the flow of money into supporting the failing polytechnic network in New Zealand, says chief executive Dr Grant Davidson.

“It is clear that the current system is burdened with high infrastructure and human resource costs that prevent it from being able to respond dynamically to the changing environment,” Dr Davidson says.

However, industry training is a comparatively lean and nimble delivery system, owned and driven by the industry it serves. Collectively, ITOs train over 145,000 NZ apprentices and trainees each year (more than the collective 16 ITPs) and do this for a fraction of the cost. This is possible because training occurs in the workplace, using workplace facilities, trainers and resources.

“The answer to the problems in New Zealand’s troubled ITP sector, is not to disassemble the successful and high-performing industry training sector and pass this over to a vocational educational system that is administratively heavy, economically inefficient and already struggling.”

Dr Davidson said that yesterday’s release of proposals for reform of vocational education in New Zealand are potentially destructive to an on-job training system in New Zealand that is already reformed and is “humming”.

“Why would you take an efficient system, much admired throughout the world as unique and effective, and burden it with the inefficiencies already identified in the ITP world? How could this transfer – to organisations already struggling to achieve their core function – make on-job training more cost-effective and provide better outcomes for employers?

“In the lead-up to these announcements, Skills Active is not aware of any of its industries or workplaces being visited by government officials to seek their views or understand their unique training demands. Nor have we heard of any of our employers requesting the overview of their training to be transferred to ITPs.”

Dr Davidson says Skills Active stands behind the comments of the Industry Training Federation’s Josh Williams, who has urged the government not to dismantle an apprenticeship and training system that is organised and driven by industry.

“As Josh says, the industry training sector agrees that reform is needed. We, too, want to see a coherent vocational training system with more collaboration and connection between class-based and work-based models.”

The proposals suggest opportunities to strengthen the roles of industry standard setting bodies by giving greater skills leadership functions: approving programmes of vocational study that would be offered across the entire system, setting and moderating end-of-study assessments, supporting core curricula resources and guiding TEC’s purchasing decisions to ensure a skilled workforce. All of these moves have been requested for some time and are possible under existing legislation. Adding these to the roles of existing ITOs would strengthen and enhance the current system that is working for our employers whose main concern is the diversity of graduates from the variety of off-job providers such as ITPs and PTEs.

Skills Active will be consulting widely with its industries – ngā mahi a te rēhia, recreation, exercise, sport and performing arts – in order to determine the views of key stakeholders, and prepare a formal response to the government’s proposal. Most importantly this will include our shareholders, 50% of whom are Māori.

“Of pressing concern is the incredibly short timeframe provided by the government for meaningful consultation. These timeframes are at variance with the processes and timeframes given by the government for its other major educational reforms that are currently underway; NCEA and Tomorrow’s Schools,” Dr Davidson says.


Media contact for Skills Active

Esther McLaren

021 195 5127

About Skills Active

Skills Active Aotearoa is the industry training organisation for recreation, exercise, sport and performing arts. We are a non-profit organisation, funded by government to promote careers and workforce development in our industries, work with those industries to create world-class qualifications, and support workplaces to train staff.