Te Whare Wānanga unclear on polytech merger impact

By Talisa Kupenga

The government has proposed merging all 16 polytechnics into one and significantly reforming industry training organisations to address falling enrolments and millions of dollars in deficits in a “broken” sector.

The New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology would collectively manage the money, budgets, staff and course delivery so it is consistent across the board. 

Education Minister Chris Hipkins says, "We can't keep simply restructuring the status quo so this is the circuit breaker I think people are looking for.  It will provide stability and certainty into the future."

The government proposes to:

  • Redefine roles for education providers and industry bodies (Industry Training Organisations or ITOs) to extend the leadership role of industry and employers.
  • Bring together the 16 existing ITPs as a one entity with the working title of the New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology, with a robust regional network of provision. 
  • Create a unified vocational education funding system.

Hipkins says there will be provision for employees to re-skill, re-position and re-deploy. However, the government has had no recent advice on how many staff would be affected and has no details of the reform costs.

National leader Simon Bridges says, "That's the point, there are just no details there and on top of that, six weeks for the disestablishment of our ITOs that provide our apprenticeships out there in the regions."

Hipkins says, "This is about increasing the provision of education and training in NZ's regions- not the other way around."

The cabinet paper says risks include wānanga not considering themselves represented in the proposed new system.

Hipkins says, "We recognise that they'll be concerned about their autonomy and what this means for them so we want to work through that with them very carefully."

National’s Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment spokesman Shane Reti says, "I don't believe that I need to see that detail.  I have concerns, we have concerns for wānanga especially with the expertise they bring to some parts of the education system."

Hipkins says change is necessary to address a 'broken' sector, with falling enrolments and millions of dollars worth of deficits.

Te Wānanga o Aotearoa chief executive Te Ururoa Flavell says there is a lack of detail about the potential impacts for whare wānanga and he intends to meet with Hipkins and Māori Education Minister Kelvin Davis for clarification.

Public consultation ends on March 27.