by Chris Tobin
It is too early to know what impact the Minister of Education’s proposal to amalgamate the country’s 16 polytechnics will have on Ara’s Timaru campus, Ara’s chief executive Tony Gray says, but job losses appear inevitable.
“It’s very difficult to comment at this stage on specifics but the Reform of Vocation Training proposal is clear that it looks to ensure strong provision in the regions of New Zealand.
“There will no doubt be some job losses but also great opportunities for retraining and redeployment across the sector.
“I have no doubt that the talent and skills of Ara’s people will be in high demand, as will the opportunity for us as an institute to contribute and lead on potential reform proposals.”
Proposals also include redefined roles of education and education providers and public feedback is open until March 27.
“There is certainly an awful lot to discuss and six weeks will provide a testing time,” Mr Gray said.
Aoraki Development is urging people in South Canterbury to have a say.
“It’s important our region has a strong voice about the changes and what we want to see happen for the best outcome for our community,” chief executive Nigel Davenport said.
“These are some of the most wide-ranging changes proposed for the vocational training sector for many years and will have a major impact on the future training and upskilling of our workforce.”
Meanwhile, Mr Gray said the Timaru campus had remained “challenged” in overall numbers of students, which has been a trend nationally with declining rolls.
“We still have much to do in developing our Ara Timaru campus and the provision of programmes.
“We’ve had great success in a number of areas including things like nursing, trades and work with schools in Dual pathway provision.”
Mr Gray said he was not consulted by the minister about the proposal to amalgamate the country’s polytechnics.
“The 16 ITPs [institutes of technology and polytechnics] into one was not something that was specifically consulted on.
“The Tertiary Education Commission’s institutes of technology and polytechnics’ road map and Ministry of Education vocational educational training reviews that led to the Reform of Vocational Training did have a wide brief.”
Merging the polytechs into a single entity, tentatively called the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology, is a step further than the consolidation of core academic functions that polytechs and the Tertiary Education Commission had suggested.
The Government has advised “learners” that current plans for study and training in 2019 will not be affected.
“You can go ahead and enrol in vocational education courses in 2019 with confidence that the system will support you to proceed with your study throughout any future change process.
“The proposals may go ahead but the Government won’t make any decisions until we have heard and carefully considered feedback.
“Even if the changes go ahead as currently envisaged, you should not notice any major changes to how the system operates in 2019.”