Reform of vocational and further education is a public good
Our polytechnics are a shadow of their former selves and massive reinvestment and reform is needed if they are to meet the needs of New Zealanders.
Almost all of our public polytechnics are teetering; a direct consequence of the prevailing market approach in which they have been forced to deliver lower quality, fragmented qualifications in competition with ‘for-profit’ providers.
The need to re-establish polytechnics as a key part of a strong public vocational education system is urgent. We need to fix the damage that has been caused by casting them as ‘a provider’, among many, in a ‘for-profit system’.
These reforms also create room for public education to become a powerhouse for local, socially inclusive and sustainable social and economic development- through better coordination and stability.
The problem that our government is trying to confront is how to move from the dire state we are in to a high trust system with trusted programmes and qualifications that individuals, employers and communities have reason to value.
A high trust system needs to be based on trusted institutions, with public vocational and further education as an anchor of that system - supported by communities, and working in partnership with schools, employers, industry and government.
Institutions are underpinned by trust. They are able to mediate between governments and local communities by developing locally responsive solutions, while ensuring that the requirements of national policies are met.
The government's desire to position public vocational and further education as an institution, not just a group of providers should be applauded.
A way forward
Polytechnics are deeply enmeshed in their local communities and regions, and they must be positioned to support and accelerate sustainable and socially inclusive regional social and economic development. They also present an opportunity to consider the knowledge and skills that will be needed for work in the future. For this to be realized it will need to be funded to support sustainable and socially inclusive social and economic development. It will need to work in partnership with schools, communities, employers and industry bodies to achieve these goals. And it will need to be based on a shared commitment to the public good.
The link between the government’s Future of Work and Just Transitions policy direction, and the need to have strong public institutions that can deliver the skills and training that will be required, will be key to that mission.
We see the reform of vocational education as a vehicle to develop local qualifications, skills and training that meets the needs of students, communities, local industries and regions.
Along with our TEU whānau we acknowledge those efforts and commit to working in partnership to articulate a new and positive mission for vocational education and its role in our society and economy.
It’s about time we got started.
Haere tonu kia maū.