The Government has announced sweeping reforms of the vocational education sector. They will see the country’s 16 institutes of technology and polytechnics brought together as one national campus network, and promote greater industry control over vocational education.

The new Institute has the working title of the NZ Institute of Skills and Technology, though this is expected to change, and the Government has already appointed the members of the Institute’s Establishment Board.

Engineering New Zealand supports the creation of a unified and coordinated national system, and believes the engineering profession can provide a template for other industries. This was the key message of our submission to the Government during consultation on the proposed reforms.

Other changes announced by the Government include:

  • Around four to seven industry-governed Workforce Development Councils will be created by 2022, replacing and expanding the roles of industry training organisations.
  • New Regional Skills Leadership Groups will represent regional interests by identifying local skill needs and ensuring the system delivers the right mix of education and training to meet them.
  • Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs) will be established at regional campuses to drive innovation and expertise.
  • Maori will be included as key partners including through Te Taumata Aronui, a Maori Crown Tertiary Education Group that will work with education agencies and Ministers to cover all aspects of tertiary education.

We think – and said so in our submission – that the New Zealand Board for Engineering Diplomas (NZBED), established in 2011 to oversee the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering, is a model for the operation of an effective CoVE. The Diploma is a 240-credit, level six qualification across four strands – Civil, Mechanical, Electrical and Fire. The Diploma consists of 16 courses and could be extended into other areas such as Water Treatment.

The Government intends to establish a small number of pilot CoVEs in the current fiscal year. NZBED is considering how becoming a CoVE might benefit engineering technician education and potentially broaden the Board’s role.  

As an industry we already work collaboratively with employers to anticipate future learning needs and meet current skills requirements. The Government’s desire to take a more strategic approach to how it funds vocational education is a positive step, given the acknowledged importance of engineering to New Zealand’s economic development and wellbeing.