UCOL presented a strong voice to government representatives who spent the day in Palmerston North consulting on proposed national reforms for polytechnics and industry training organisations. Tertiary Education Commission Chief Executive Tim Fowler, and John MacCormick, Chief Policy Analyst with the Ministry of Education met with over 200 staff, students, UCOL Council, management, Mayors, community and industry stakeholders.
Dr Lynn, UCOL Chief Executive, said UCOL and stakeholders took the opportunity to ask questions and understand the intent of the reforms. Overall the tone was positive and supportive about the opportunities presented by reform across the broad framework of vocational education, training and research, with a recurring theme around the need for more detail in order to fully understand how the sector will work in future.
“UCOL supports the Government’s intent to improve education, training and research in support of the vocations, including nursing and teaching. Regional community stakeholders are supportive of UCOL playing an active leadership role in shaping the future of education and training in our rohe.”
Throughout, UCOL has consistently emphasised the need to recognise that not all polytechnics have failed financially and that many —including UCOL — have continued to make progress in difficult conditions. “We have emphasised the need to invest in New Zealand, nationally and regionally. We do not support a “cost cutting” position. We were heartened to hear that this is not the intention of the reforms.”
“The architecture and operating model for the proposed new structure needs to be well designed and to maintain a focus on improvements to the delivery of education, training and research to what we term “vocational” roles in our economy.
Staff and stakeholders were pleased to hear reassurances that degrees, post graduate qualifications and Masters study would be retained and strengthened, through the proposed new entity.
There was widespread support for a system that supports a growing national economy, and regional economies. Industry representatives outlined their concerns around an ongoing shortage of workers with the right skills training, and are looking for improvements to the current system.
Communities expect to have a strong voice to support relevant tertiary education delivery in their areas. UCOL’s experience of running multiple campuses across diverse regions, is that a level of regional autonomy is required. “The balance between centralisation and regionalisation must be carefully considered to ensure efficacy of delivery and innovation in the system. Regional representation must have a strong Iwi Māori voice, as well as industry and community connections. The expertise in the current ITOs must not be lost. Regional Leadership Groups will require organization, budget, resources and support to operate successfully and to make a meaningful contribution.”
The introduction of Centres of Vocational Excellence is supported by UCOL, with strengths in Healthcare and Social Assistance, and Manufacturing, being two examples. “UCOL is well placed to host several Centres of Vocational Excellence. This is due to our core competencies; regional mix of provision; match to regional economic activity; central location, significant local support and our experience in scalability and integration of other polytechnics”, said Dr Lynn. “In addition to these, we have increasing capability in the supply of Early Childhood Education training in New Zealand and China.”
UCOL also believes that incorporation of some of the current Industry Training Organisation functions into regional delivery centres will strengthen industry relationships and better meet future workforce needs. Collaboration is required to support a flexible system that is responsive to both learner and employer needs.
A photograph of Tertiary Education Commission Chief Executive Tim Fowler talking to UCOL staff in Palmerston North.
Lead picture: L-R: Craig Nash from Spearhead Manawatu, Palmerston North Mayor Grant Smith, UCOL Chief Executive Dr Lynn, Tertiary Education Commission Chief Executive Tim Fowler and UCOL Council Chairperson Ben Vanderkolk.