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Otago Polytechnic sees no major surprises in Bill, but funding remains issue

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A new system for New Zealand’s ITP and ITO sector will take effect on 1 April, following the third reading of the Education (Vocational Education and Training Reform) Amendment Bill on 19 February.

On 1 April, Otago Polytechnic will become a subsidiary of what is currently known as the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology (NZIST), but whose final name is currently being considered.

"The legislation that has been passed offers no real surprises," Otago Polytechnic Chief Executive Phil Ker says. "It has taken on board some of the feedback and concerns expressed by Otago Polytechnic, other ITPs and ITOs, although has ignored submissions to allow for high performing subsidiaries to continue as of right.

"However, we prepared ourselves for the worst so, from our perspective, it is business as usual.

"The Tertiary Education Commission, effectively the architects of the sector reform envisaged by Education Minister Chris Hipkins, have signalled that the process of change, from 1 April until the end of 2022, will be ‘evolutionary not revolutionary’.

"We welcome this staged approach," Mr Ker says, "although we hope for early moves to integrate apprenticeships and industry training into the operations of NZIST."

"The legislation does not affect or change the decisions that Otago Polytechnic have made. As a leading ITP, we will continue to flourish and to be the best institution we can be -- even if as a subsidiary.

"Otago Polytechnic will continue to retain its name, operational and academic autonomy until, we believe, 31 December 2022.

"We have much to contribute to the new system. We pride ourselves on our innovative approaches; we are well-regarded for our nimble responses to industry and sector demands; and we will continue to promote strong collaborative relationships with a broad range of community, national and international stakeholders.

"However, now that the legislation has passed and the NZIST is to become a reality from 1 April, we urge the Minister to address urgently the crisis of funding of the Polytechnic providers.

"The Minister has identified sector funding as one of the key tenets of his reform. He has acknowledged a woefully inadequate funding system that has been failing New Zealand for at least a decade. Yet it appears this will not be addressed for another two years.

"That is unacceptable, to say the least"

"We sincerely hope the Minister will ensure that Government invests in the sector by addressing long-standing problems with the system as whole.

"For example: the lack of training and development for staff and management; the inadequacy of investment in curriculum for workplace learning; and the significant under-resourcing of services for learners across the ITP and ITO sectors.

"New Zealand has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create an outstanding, world-class vocational education system. It remains to be seen if Government will seize the opportunity and invest accordingly, or simply arrange the deck chairs on a different deck."

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