Vocational education changes key to boosting student success

Published: Fri 9 Aug 2019 09:13 AM
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.”

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