Opposition to polytechnic proposal

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Ara's Timaru campus

by Chris Tobin

While acknowledging reforms to the vocational education sector are needed, the Timaru District Council and Aoraki Development oppose the Government’s proposal to establish a single nationwide educational institute.

Under the proposal, existing government-owned institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs) around the country would be merged as one entity and known as the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology.

In its submission to the Ministry of Education, the council said it supported the Government’s aim to ensure high quality education to learners and better alignment with employers’ needs.

However, the council did not support creating a single vocational education institution, the loss of local decision-making, the rushed timing of the implementation and removing the role of supporting workplace learning from Industry Training Organisations (ITOs).

In its submission, Aoraki Development also opposed a single vocational education entity and said its chief concern was the Government’s “hasty push for change”.

It supported the creation of a single vocational education system and one cohesive funding system and the move to clarify the roles and responsibilities of ITOs, Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics, and Private Training Establishments.

However, Aoraki Development did not support abolishing ITOs, for fear it could dismantle industry-led training and apprenticeships and discourage employers.

It also wanted clarification on what would happen to South Canterbury’s reserves of about $22million held by the Ara Institute of Canterbury if the proposed changes went ahead.

In January 2016 when the then Aoraki Polytechnic of Timaru and Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) merged to form the Ara Institute of Canterbury, Ara received $24million from Aoraki Polytechnic, “effectively South Canterbury money.”

“It was clearly stated in the document associated with this merger ‘the financial reserves that Aoraki Polytechnic had previously built up must be invested to support the delivery of quality education for the Aoraki region’.”

The Timaru District Council wanted Government assurance the money would be used for vocational education in South Canterbury.