Te Pūkenga leaders visited UCOL Manawatū this week, talking with UCOL staff and learners about the future of vocational learning and the work underway to further improve it.
Te Pūkenga is a new national entity established by the government to unite polytechnics and industry training organisations around the country into a national network. It will be easily accessible to learners while meeting the needs of employers.
"We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to re-build a vocational learning system that is simple to navigate, responds to the needs of a diverse range of learners and employers, and is flexible enough to change as the future develops," Deputy Chief Executive Operations, Vaughan Payne said.
"If we're going achieve the goals we've set ourselves, we need to engage often with groups right across Aotearoa. We need to bring together the perspectives of our learners and their whānau, our people, employers, regions, communities and Māori to strengthen the taonga already put in place by subsidiaries like UCOL. That's why I'm in Palmerston North today with my colleague, and why Te Pūkenga leadership are visiting 16 locations this month."
"We need to be purposeful and use our collective experience to lift the bar for vocational learning, particularly for ākonga Māori, Pacific learners and learners with disabilities. Designing that system takes time and commitment from a broad range of people – and we've seen passion to be a part of that," Te Pūkenga Deputy Chief Executive Learner Journey and Experience, Tania Winslade said.
At the UCOL session, kōrero focused on the development of the operating model and academic regulations, as well as the learner insights gathered as part of the Ākonga at the Centre research.
"This is incredibly important mahi that will help shape the future of vocational learning. We know there's a strong desire to know what the future looks like – we're looking forward to providing an update on the next six to eight months, which includes co-design work on the operating model," Mr Payne said.
UCOL whānau from other campuses were able to join the conversation virtually. "The breakout sessions gave staff and learners the opportunity for deeper engagement into specific areas of our mahi, such as the learner journey. Our colleagues in subsidiaries, like UCOL, are an essential part of this journey."
UCOL Chief Executive, Dr Linda Sissons, said that UCOL looks forward to playing a strong, supportive role in the national network. "Our academic staff will be able to draw on programmes developed elsewhere in the network, and our learners will be able to move freely around Aotearoa without interrupting their learning journeys. UCOL's strengths, including well-established relationships with the region's employers and industries; our Tiriti-based Iwi and Hapu partnerships; and our very strong track record in preparing local graduates for the health, construction and infrastructure, education and IT industries, are highly regarded by our rohe and will be an asset to Te Pūkenga."
Once fully established, Te Pūkenga will be New Zealand's largest tertiary provider and the 35th largest globally. On 1 April 2020, New Zealand's 16 Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics became subsidiaries of Te Pūkenga. From 1 Jan 2023 all learners will be enrolled at Te Pūkenga.