Refining industry training

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Warwick Quinn, Deputy Chief Executive, Employer Journey and Experience, Te Pukenga has a new role in industry training. He describes how the new inclusive system functions differently from the previous one.


TE PUKENGA – the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology – has embarked on the ambitious goal of reforming New Zealand’s vocational education and training (VET) system.

Major merger to reform VET

This entails merging the 16 institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs) with most of the 11 industry training organisations (ITOs). This transition will take place over the next 2 years and be complete by December 2022.

So what does this mean for construction training and for firms that take on apprentices?

I left the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) to take on a new position at Te Pūkenga as I was excited by the potential these VET reforms offered employers. The current system is 30 years old, and at BCITO, we identified a whole raft of things that needed to change if we were going to improve VET in construction. These issues were covered in a briefing to incoming Ministers in 2017, and if you run down that list, all of them can be addressed by these reforms – if we do them well.

Changing the system for the better

As an example, in the current system we have providers of training and arrangers of training.

Providers can teach and are organisations like polytechs, wānanga and private training establishments.

ITOs are standard setters – that is, they write the qualifications – but are not allowed to provide and teach because of a conflict of interest. They can, however, arrange training and support the employer, who, for all intents and purposes, is the provider – though not formally recognised as one.

That will change. The standard-setting functions of ITOs will be separated from the arranging training functions and become the responsibility of workforce development councils. When this happens, the conflict of interest disappears, so when ITOs merge with Te Pūkenga, they too become providers.

If we also recognise employers as providers and elevate them to an equal footing with other providers, collectively, we have the potential to do amazing things.

Partnering with employers to lift skills

We all know the best tennis player doesn’t automatically make the best coach. Being technically proficient doesn’t mean you have the skills to impart knowledge and teach well. These are a separate and critical set of skills if your apprentice is going to succeed. With more upskilling and training happening in the workplace, there is a greater dependency on employers being able to do that well.

So, why not help them lift their pedagogical competencies? Why not partner with them and, perhaps, co-teach and provide a more comprehensive targeted service, leveraging each other’s strengths?

At Te Pūkenga, employers and apprentices will have access to a much wider set of offerings. The competition that currently exists between on-job (ITOs), off-job (ITPs) and digital learning will be gone as all of these will be under one roof. Te Pūkenga will be agnostic to the mode of support and delivery – it will respond based on learner and employer needs, whatever combination works best.

The number of programmes will be rationalised and written to accommodate all forms of delivery. They will be national and delivered through a national network.

Overcoming the barriers

Construction always has concerns about skill shortages, but not enough firms train and the way the sector is structured creates additional barriers. This would change if we had a funding model that incentivised and supported firms who trained. Just look at the response to the government’s fees free and apprentice boost schemes if you want proof.

So with the what, where and how customised to employer and learner needs under way within Te Pūkenga, just imagine where we could get to with a revamped funding system to boot. The potential, oh the potential.

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