New era for vocational education

  • Hon Chris Hipkins

The Government’s work to put trades and vocational education back on the agenda took another major step forward today with the passing of the Education (Vocational Education and Training Reform) Amendment Bill, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.

“This is a watershed day for trades and vocational education. These law changes formalise the process of creating a strong, unified, sustainable system to set us up to respond to skills shortages and prepare for the future of work,” Chris Hipkins says.

“With the Government recently announcing a $12 billion infrastructure programme, there has never been a better time to enter trades and vocational training.

“For years New Zealand has faced serious skills shortages across many industries. The construction industry alone needs 80,000 workers in the next five years and the current system is not set up to handle the demand.

“The current system discourages collaboration and pits polytechnics and on-the-job training providers against each other. Learners are often the ones caught in the cross-fire and employers don’t get the skills they need.

“With these changes we’re bringing together a coherent system of on-the-job apprenticeships and off-the-job training for the first time in 30 years – since apprenticeships were abolished in the 1990s.

“We’re creating a system that is simple to understand and navigate, responsive to the needs of learners and employers, and flexible enough to keep changing and evolving as the world around us changes and evolves.”

The Bill:

  • gives industry greater leadership across vocational education and training by establishing workforce development councils (WDCs)
  • establishes the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology (NZIST), which will bring together all 16 polytechnics and institutes of technology to provide, arrange and support vocational education and training across the country
  • introduces a new regulatory framework for vocational education and training

“Amendments following feedback received from the sector during the select committee process and from my colleagues in the House will make the Bill more effective in achieving the Government’s vision,” Chris Hipkins said.

“The Bill ensures academic freedom for staff at the NZIST while allowing industry to take a leadership role in identifying the skills needed in the workplace through workforce development councils. The Bill will lead to better outcomes for students, industry and the regions, and provides support for staff during the transition to the new system.

“This Bill, along with the work happening outside Parliament to create workforce development councils, centres of vocational excellence, a new vocational education funding system, and to promote vocational education in schools and the community, is a testament to the ability of New Zealanders to work together in pursuit of the common good.

“We will continue to work with industry sectors and training organisations, the institutes of technology and polytechnics that will become part of the NZIST on 1 April, students, unions, whānau and communities to complete the task of building a better system of vocational education and training,” Chris Hipkins said.

Editor’s note

Work done to date that relates to the creation of a new system of vocational education and training includes:

  • announcing the six WDCs will provide industry with greater leadership across vocational education and training, including for Construction and Infrastructure, and Primary Industries
  • announcing that there will be two centres of vocational excellence to drive innovation and strengthen links between education providers and these two crucial sectors
  • setting up Te Taumata Aronui, which will help develop the tertiary education system so that it better supports the aspirations, and reflects the needs, of Māori learners, communities and employers
  • announcing the Construction Sector Transformation Plan, which will make it easier to deliver the workforce and productivity gains required to build the houses, schools, roads, rail and hospitals New Zealand needs
  • launching a campaign to raise the profile of vocational education
  • setting up a new education-to-employment brokerage service to strengthen connections between local employers and schools
  • funding more trades focused events that will mean tens of thousands of secondary students are given exposure to employers and the opportunities offered by key industries, and 
  • funding thousands more Trades Academy and Gateway places for secondary students.