New Zealand to reform vocational education

The Asia Pacific Technical and Vocational Education Forum was held virtually – under the theme ‘Bringing Us Together’ – was organised by Education New Zealand, the country’s largest private sector vocational education consultancy the Skills Consulting Group, and New Zealand’s new national institution for Vocational Education and Training, Te Pūkenga.

The conference brought together leaders and experts across governments, international organisations, and the industry.

Alongside eminent speakers from across the region, the Forum featured a WorldSkills Panel of Champions, which saw deliberations by the representatives of the WorldSkills Champions Trust who shared their experiences in vocational education and training and their career journeys.

“We are aiming to create a strong, unified, and sustainable system”

New Zealand Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, expanded on the “significant reform of vocational education” the country is undergoing.

“We are aiming to create a strong, unified, and sustainable system — one that’s aligned with the future of work, one that is able to deliver the skills that will help learners, employers, and communities to thrive,” he said.

This program of reform of vocational education and training system “known as RoVE, is not  just a series of minor changes, [but] will fundamentally change our vocational education system — making it fit for the future and bringing it closer to the needs of learners and employers”, said Hipkins.

Embarking on reform came from a recognition the country was facing “pretty serious skills shortages” across a number of industries, he continued.

“We were also operating under a split system that drew a fairly arbitrary distinction between on-the-job learning and classroom based learning,” he said.

“We recognised that, that wasn’t necessarily meeting the needs of all of our employers and learners. So what we are moving towards now is a nationally integrated network of vocational education.”

Learners will be able to “seamlessly move” between modes of studies from on the job, in the classroom or online, in addition to moving between different regions of New Zealand.

Minister Hipkins detailed that some of the key actions that were shaping the reform of vocational education included the establishment of six Workforce Development Councils; setting up of 15 Regional Skills Leadership Groups; establishment of Centres of Vocational Excellence; development of a unified funding system; and simplifying the qualifications design.

Additionally, Te Pūkenga, The New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology, established in April 2020 – bringing together New Zealand’s 16 Institutes of Technology and poly-techs into a single organisation – will deliver applied vocational learning across all levels of the New Zealand Qualifications Framework.

Te Pūkenga will have scale and reach so that it can become a trusted-long term skills and training partner for New Zealand’s employers and industry.

“Our goal is that Te Pūkenga will become a really valued and trusted partner right across the Asia-Pacific region — and one that is able to share its expertise through its international partnerships,” Hipkins said.

Advisory group Te Taumata Aronui is “helping to ensure that the reform of vocational education upholds the partnership between the New Zealand government and the Maori people”, he added.

New Zealand Qualifications Authority chief executive Grant Klinkum elaborated on some of the key aspects of the reform.

RoVE is about “really securing the voice of end users, of our indigenous people, of professional associations, of employers and of learners”, he said.

“It has been difficult for learners to move between modes of delivery and between provider types”

“Arguably the end user voice has not been as strong as it could have been in our system, historically. One consequence of that is that it has been difficult for learners to move between modes of delivery and between provider types, and between geographical regions.

“Another absolute fundamental of the reform is to ensure that there is a new type of relationship between the Crown and the Maori [people]. And, in the establishment of Te Pukenga, the Workforce Development Councils, and the role of Te Taumata Aronui, a group that advises ministers, Maori are in a much more influential partnership role with Crown agencies,” Klinkum highlighted.

“It’s a marathon and it would take several years to do the things that need to be done, to change our systems, to upgrade our approach, and to bring to life the things that are embedded in the proposed matrix model,” Stephen Town, chief executive of Te Pūkenga, posited.

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