The country’s 16 institutes of technology and polytechnics will be brought together to operate as a single national campus network, the Government has announced today.
In the dramatic revamp, the new institute will start on April 1 next year and will provides on-the-job and off-the-job learning.
The head office will be outside of Wellington or Auckland, and will be responsible for setting strategy and reducing duplication in areas such as programme design and development. It will take a network-wide view to investments.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins made the announcement today, along with a list of other changes to the sector.
"Vocational education, trades training and on-the-job training have been allowed to drift for too long," he said. "These are long-term challenges that this Government is committed to fixing."
He announced the proposal last year, but it quickly drew criticism.
The Southern Institute of Technology has said it’s a success story and wants to be able to do its own thing. Meanwhile, the marine industry also ramped up calls for the Government to leave its on-the-job training alone.
But Mr Hipkins today said the comprehensive changes the Government is making will address the widespread skills shortages across most industry sectors.
"These shortages highlight the limitations of the current vocational educational system," he said, adding repeated forecasts showed one-third of all jobs in New Zealand were likely to be significantly affected by automation.
He also said as early as 2022 more than half of all employees will require significant upskilling and retraining.
"As lower-skilled jobs disappear we need our people to learn new skills, often while on the job, earning while they are learning," he said.
"We also know the regions are increasingly struggling to find enough skilled people to keep their economies strong. Too many Māori, Pacific and disabled learners are being left behind to achieve at a lower level because the system just won’t respond to their needs."
Mr Hipkins said the changes will give industry greater control over all aspects of vocational education and training, making the system more responsive to employers’ needs and to the changing world of work.
Other changes made include the creation of four to seven industry-governed Workforce Development Councils by 2022 and new regional skills leadership groups to represent regional interests - working across education, immigration and welfare systems in each region.
In addition, over the next two to three years the role of supporting workplace learning will shift from industry training organisations to training providers; Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs) will be established at regional campuses; and Māori will be included as key partners, including through Te Taumata Aronui, a Māori Crown Tertiary Education Group.
The dual funding system will also be unified and simplified to encourage greater integration of on-the-job and off-the-job learning, ensure learners can access more work-relevant and tailored support, and enable new models of education delivery which are more responsive to employer and industry demand, a statement of the changes says.
Mr Hipkins said the Government is not in a rush to implement the vast changes, though - saying the transition will take three to four years to get fully underway.
"We have given a great deal of thought to how to minimise disruption, and listened carefully to the concerns of employers, staff and students," he said.