Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand

 
MITO model ain’t broke – so why fix it?

MITO model ain’t broke – so why fix it?

Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand

 April 2019    RTF News

News that the Government is looking at a total overhaul of vocational training in New Zealand could turn out to be a double-edged sword for the road transport industry.

It's no secret that polytechnics around NZ have been struggling. Enrolment across the sector has plummeted by around 20% over the last eight years. Consequently, many of our polytechnics are in some sort of financial difficulty, which is why Education Minister Chris Hipkins' proposal to merge them into a single entity, the NZ Institute of Skills and Technology, has the potential to be positive for our industry.

As well as giving greater certainty and stability to the sector, the new institute will mean that no matter where students are located, they will have access to the full suite of courses offered nationally.

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News that the Government is looking at a total overhaul of vocational training in New Zealand could turn out to be a double-edged sword for the road transport industry.
It's no secret that polytechnics around NZ have been struggling. Enrolment across the sector has plummeted by around 20% over the last eight years. Consequently, many of our polytechnics are in some sort of financial difficulty, which is why Education Minister Chris Hipkins' proposal to merge them into a single entity, the NZ Institute of Skills and Technology, has the potential to be positive for our industry.
As well as giving greater certainty and stability to the sector, the new institute will mean that no matter where students are located, they will have access to the full suite of courses offered nationally.
This contrasts with the piecemeal situation we have now, where some polytechnics in some regions, such as the Southern Institute of Technology, offer fantastic courses in the areas of commercial transport and logistics….while others don't offer anything at all. This has an obvious impact on the workforce.
By contrast, our 11 industry training organisations (ITOs) are beginning to find their feet following intensive consolidation of the sector by the previous government – and in most cases are now working very well.
The idea is that the ITOs' current role of supporting workplace learning and assessment for work-based vocational education is transferred to the NZ Institute of Skills and Technology, with new Industry Skills Bodies providing advice filtered from industry.
Sure, workplace training would retain formal links to industry, but the fact remains that delivery responsibility would fall mostly on the shoulders of one organisation.
To pay for this centralised system, businesses will not only have to pay the costs associated with training their staff, but they will also incur a levy to fund the institute.
The Government believes that the new system will remove what it sees as counter-productive tensions between industry bodies and vocational education providers, and reverse the current separation between provider-based and workplace-based learning. Still, I'm not quite sure how this will encourage more workplace training.
The strength of the current ITO model is that it's industry-led, industry-governed and therefore responsive to the natural changes in the economy. Workplace-based learning is beginning to flourish, so the current model is obviously working for large sections of our economy.
According to Josh Williams, chief executive of the Industry Training Federation, ITOs currently have 145,000 people per year in workplace training and apprenticeships, in around 25,000 businesses. This makes workplace training and apprenticeships the largest form of post-school education in NZ.
I must admit to being sceptical that the Industry Skills Bodies will be as effective in reflecting the wishes of the industries they represent as ITOs have been. I'm also sceptical that putting all our eggs into the one basket with this new institute is in the best interests of industries such as ours.
David Crawford, chief executive officer of the Motor Industry Association, which like RTF is a member of MITO, sums up the problems with the reforms quite succinctly, saying: "While there is clearly a need to reform the way in which training is provided through polytechnics – as this part of the system has been broken for some time – our view is that the current ITO model works well and serves industry much better than the proposals released by the Minister will."
When we look at our own industry's circumstances, it's true that road transport has not experienced the uptake in training that some other industries have. However, that has not been the fault of MITO or the ITO model.
Unfortunately, road transport does not have the history of apprenticeships, qualifications and formal workplace training that many other industries have. This is not an excuse and the reality is that no matter what structure we're left with, we need to up our game and get more of our people into training.
The good news is that a lot of hard work is being put into improving this situation through initiatives such as SWEP – but we are well behind many other industries.
In many respects it's about pushing a culture change within road transport – that qualifications and training need to be treated as a priority if we are to develop viable career pathways for ambitious young people.
The recent work that RTF and the industry have done with MITO to crunch down the number of commercial road transport qualifications and match them with the relevant workplace training should help to change this culture, as it makes the qualifications more relevant to those wishing to upskill themselves in the industry.
This kind of collaboration, flexibility and responsiveness is an example of the strength of the current ITO model and something that I'm not sure an institution like the proposed NZ Institute of Skills and Technology can replicate.
The other concern I have is that Government's consultation period is alarmingly short. I strongly agree with MITO chief executive Janet Lane's assessment that a six-week period for consultation will not provide sufficient time for robust debate and meaningful consideration of the far-reaching implications of the changes proposed.
The very least that the 11 existing ITOs deserve is to have the chance to defend their record – what they've done to promote the uptake of industry qualifications and the upskilling of NZ's workforce.
More on the proposed vocational education reforms can be found at https://conversation.education.govt.nz/conversations/reform-of-vocational-education/have-your-say
Needless to say, RTF will be submitting in opposition to the disestablishment of the ITOs. Any feedback operators have that they wish to pass on and have included in that submission will be gratefully received. Please feel free to contact me at nick@rtf.nz


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