Public good of tertiary education brought into sharp focus

Posted By TEU on Feb 8, 2018 | 1 comment

Tertiary Update – Vol 21 No 2

News that a shortage of skilled workers in the construction sector could delay the completion of a hotel in Auckland highlights the critical role tertiary education plays in bolstering our economy and why it needs to be properly funded.

Radio New Zealand reported this morning that 200 tradespeople from China will be flown in to complete a new $200 million Auckland hotel because of a shortage of skilled Kiwis.

The story points to a clear current and future need for skilled workers in the construction industry and highlights why tertiary institutions need to be better supported to deliver these skills.

Demand for construction employees is projected to increase on average by 11 percent between 2016 and 2022, according to a recent report by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

However, despite this projected growth in demand, not enough is being done to support institutions offering trade qualifications.

At NorthTec, for example, construction courses are being closed, largely because of a policy approach that put tertiary education at the mercy of short-term market trends, rather than being contingent on what we need for the future.

And it’s not just about building high-end hotels in Auckland.

Addressing the housing crisis and ensuring an adequate provision of social housing in areas like Northland will also require large numbers of skilled constructions workers.

Making sure these skills are provided locally is a job for the government. It needs to develop a strategy to ensure the long-term viability of trade qualifications – and to back it up with support for institutions to increase enrolments in these programmes.

The tertiary education sector is still reeling from last government’s narrow focus on the role of learning as a mean to increasing earning power. What this did was fuel an understanding of tertiary education as a purely private benefit rather than a good for us all.

As the story in Auckland shows, a properly funded tertiary education system offering a wide range of qualifications has huge benefits for us all. However, for years, funding for institutions that are the main providers these qualifications has been eroded.

As a result, tertiary providers like NorthTec are closing courses and getting rid of staff. Before we know it, we have a missing set of skills and no one left to teach them.

The Tertiary Education Union (TEU), the Manukau Institute of Technology and the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations are bringing together staff, students, business, industry trainers, sector leaders and policy makers to discuss the future of vocational education and training at a forum on 1 March.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Return of staff to tertiary councils welcomed, but not enough
  2. VC sets out future of Lincoln University

Other news

The Universal College of Learning introducing a Bachelor of Creative Media to replace its Bachelor of Visual Imaging – UCOL

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority has cancelled registration of Excellent International Academy – NZQA

New Zealand Management Academies has announced plans to open a Rotorua campus – NZ Herald

The Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology has launched a new Bachelor of Career Development – NMIT

Private provider Aromaflex International has been told to stop enrolling new students into New Zealand Qualifications Authority approved programmes – NZQA

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