Government must prioritise employer confidence and trust in apprenticeship reforms
Today's announcement from Education Minister Chris Hipkins restructuring New Zealand's vocational education and apprenticeship system creates uncertainty for businesses trying to progress their employees up the qualifications ladder, says Business Central.
"As more detail on the upcoming changes to vocational training is rolled out by the government, we look forward to seeing how the links between businesses and apprenticeship training will strengthen," says Chief Executive John Milford.
"Improving the skills of New Zealanders is a critical economic driver. In our quarterly surveys of members, finding the right skills is rated as the number one issue by employers time after time.
"Business already invest heavily in building the skills of their workers through professional development, skills training, as well as formally recognised vocational training and apprenticeships.
"Today's announcement is a massive overhaul of the system merging all institutes of technology and polytechnics into one entity, and restructuring and rationalising all industry training organisations.
"Such fundamental structural reform could result in short-term uncertainty and disrupt the skills pipeline at the very moment employers are desperate for newly trained staff.
"Currently, employer-led industry training organisations arrange the delivery of training to their apprentices, and this role will transition to the new NZIST, making one government entity the near monopoly provider of vocational training nationwide.
"This consolidation reinforces the need to protect employers' voices and provide the flexibility employers require.
"Apprentices deserve credible, transferable qualifications that allows them to move across employers as their ambitions and circumstances change. This objective is at risk in the long-term if employers retreat from the NZIST-led apprenticeship system and revert to bespoke professional development that provides employers with a skilled workforce, but employees without nationally recognised qualifications they can use to advance their career.
"In addition, regional leaders and employers have built strong relationships with their local ITP over time, and focused on improving the coordination across education, immigration, welfare, and economic development in their regions.
"The government needs to demonstrate how the amalgamation of all ITPs into one nationwide entity fits with other government initiatives to provide increased regional responsiveness; for example, the introduction of regional skills shortage lists for immigration and the provision of new skills and employment regional hubs through Te Ara Mahi."