Unitec says vocational education changes key to boosting student success
New model will increase support for Māori, Pacific and all learners
Auckland, 8 August: Unitec, New Zealand’s largest Institute of Technology, welcomes the Government’s focus on student
success, meeting skills needs and partnership with Māori.
The Education Minister last week announced the creation of a New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology (NZIST) which would encompass provision by the 16 Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs) and
include workplace-based training currently delivered by Industry Training Organisations (ITOs).
Speaking this week from Ōritetanga - Tertiary Success For Everyone, the Tertiary Education Commission’s inaugural
conference on Learner Success, Unitec Interim Chief Executive Merran Davis said she is delighted that the Government is
committed to a long term vision of major systemic change and a collaborative vocational education sector which would
bring huge benefits to the whole of New Zealand.
“Swapping our current competitive environment for one which supports the sharing of expertise and resources for the
benefit of our students and communities is critical in creating a better education experience and increasing access to
quality education for everyone.”
Ms Davis said a silver lining to some of the sector’s recent financial challenges was that it encouraged institutes to
deepen their understanding of student needs and the opportunities to better serve communities.
“At Unitec we have made a lot of positive changes over the past 12 months, with staff, student and community voices
playing a key role in shaping our direction and I am heartened by the Minister’s acknowledgement of the importance of
these voices in the upcoming sector change. But we can only go so far within a competitive and siloed sector.
“The new model will allow us to take those crucial next steps, aligning programmes between providers, enabling students
to move between regions and from campus-based to workplace-based and distance learning, as well as providing the
specific support to ensure the success of all learners. These are major factors in increasing the accessiblity of
education, better supporting our Māori and Pacific students, other priority groups, and all those marginalised by
location, living costs, family responsibilities or work commitments, to engage with tertiary education.
“An integrated national and regional view of skills needs with strong industry leadership also allows us to be more
responsive and dedicate greater resources to significant skill gaps, such as training more skilled tradespeople to help
tackle Auckland’s housing challenges.”
Ms Davis said the incorporation of workplace training may be the most significant change for the sector.
“For the first time, we will be able to take a holistic end-to-end approach to the individual’s learning experience and
give students access to the teaching and training facilities at our ITP campuses and other sites, while also drawing on
the deep industry training knowledge and connections of the current ITOs.”
She said many ITOs are doing outstanding work and it is essential that their knowledge, expertise and employer
relationships are a key part of the design of the new institute. Unitec hopes to work more closely with them, ahead of
the formal transition.
“We look forward to exploring the ways we can combine our resources and expertise sooner rather than later, perhaps with
pilot programmes which span on-job and off-job training. Although these have been done before, the competitive system
has been a major barrier and I look forward to exploring new possibilities. Likewise, the announcement will only
strengthen the work we have started with MIT to take an Auckland-wide rather than individual institutional approach to
vocational and professional training and education.”
The creation of Te Taumata Aronui, a Māori Crown Tertiary Education Advisory Group was another major announcement which
Ms Davis believes is fundamental to the change required and must have the mandate to ensure partnership in all areas of
the new system.
“Unitec has renewed our committment to Te Noho Kotahitanga, our partnership with Māori, and to supporting our Māori,
Pacific and other priority students. I believe this above all else is at the heart of the renewal Unitec has made over
the last year. As well as being the right thing to do, we know that by increasing Māori success we will see increased
success for all students. By ensuring Māori partner in the delivery of education, Te Taumata Aronui has the potential to
deliver transformation for our communities.”
While acknowledging that there was significant inherent risk in such major change and a lot of hard work to be done in
developing detailed plans, Ms Davis said overall staff are committed to better outcomes for all our students and are
keen to get on with it.
“The last 12 months has shown us what we can achieve as an organisation when we are all on the same waka so let’s get on
and build an NZIST waka that has room for all of us.”