By: Simon Collins

The Government is proposing a new national institute to take over all 16 polytechnics and manage most apprentices and industry trainees. Here’s how it would affect you.

Polytech students

Effects should be minimal in the short term except that qualifications would be issued by the unified NZ Institute of Skills and Technology (NZIST) rather than possibly lesser-known local polytechs.

In the longer term, the new institute may reshuffle campus locations, possibly opening new outposts in areas that don’t currently have campuses.

The national structure may also make it easier for students who want to study specialised subjects, which are currently offered by only one or two polytechnics, to get online tutoring and visits from distant tutors without having to move.

Apprentices and trainees

The new system would mean big changes for apprentices and industry trainees.

At present, they find employers to take them on either directly or with help from an industry training organisation (ITO) such as the Motor Industry Training Organisation (MITO) or the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO).

The ITO provides training handbooks, supports trainees, marks their work and ultimately grants their qualifications.

They may or may not buy in block courses from polytechnics or private training providers as part of the training.

Under the new system, trainees would first enrol with either the NZIST or a private provider or wānanga. The institute or other training provider would manage training through a mix of class tuition and workplace training.

Industry skills bodies would still specify the standards that trainees would have to meet, and may check that they have achieved those standards at the end of their training.

But the institute or training provider would provide the workplace training handbooks, support and marking, and would issue the final qualifications.

The change may make training more secure. If an employer goes broke or has to lay off a trainee, the institute or training provider would find them another employer or shift their training into the classroom so they can still get a qualification.

Employers

Employers who want to take on an apprentice or trainee currently contract with an industry training organisation to provide the handbooks, marking and support. Under the new system they would deal instead with the local NZIST campus or a private training provider or wānanga.

They would have a choice between the NZIST and other training providers instead of having to deal only with the ITO.

Polytech staff

Most “back office” functions such as management, accounting, marketing, computer systems and planning of property and buildings would be centralised to cut costs, with obvious implications for the 6,330 non-academic staff in the 16 existing polytechnics.

The “centralised” roles may be “at ‘national office’ or at one or a few regional campuses”.

Courses would also be developed centrally or through Centres of Vocational Excellence for key industries, so academic staff in the regions “would spend little or no time designing curricula or assessment from scratch, as these would be centralised”.

This may mean fewer jobs in the regions for some of the polytechnics’ current 6,600 academic staff.

On the other hand, more jobs would be needed in the regions to liaise with employers and potentially to support trainees in specialised subjects that are not now offered in most regions but could be offered by distant tutors in a national institute.

Industry training staff

Most of the 1,300 full-time-equivalent staff in the ITOs would lose their jobs under the new plan, although it says: “We anticipate some current industry training organisation employees who support workplace learning and assessment would take up similar roles at providers (particularly the new institute).”

The 11 existing ITOs would be abolished but the plan says: “ITOs’ existing skills and capability place them in a strong position to seek recognition as industry skills bodies.”

Source: NZ Herald

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