The New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology (NZIST) has released its Mobilising the New World Interim Reports outlining the findings of working groups tasked with considering the future of the vocational education sector. In the coming weeks, Tertiary Update will speak with TEU representatives who participated in the seven working groups.

This week TEU women’s vice president Dr Sarah Proctor-Thomson reflects on her role in the New Academic Architecture workstream, and the continued importance of staff and TEU participation in the development of the new Institute.

NZIST will be New Zealand’s largest tertiary education and training provider, extensively engaged in industry training and foundation learning whilst at the same time conferring annually, the second largest number of degrees in New Zealand. The academic architecture of NZIST must therefore cover, monitor and oversee an extensive range of vocational, applied and professional education provision.

The work of the Academic Architecture workstream sought to envision a system, an architecture, to ensure that the integrity of educational provision through NZIST is maintained and that successful education and training outcomes are achieved, in line with legislated Charter expectations.

I wanted to participate in a ‘Mobilising the New World’ working group as I saw an opportunity to be part of creating a more sustainable and fit-for-purpose sector which holds the learner at the centre. I wanted to help build a new institute that would enhance the role of vocational and skills education in the social, economic and political well-being of Aotearoa. It was important to me to have my voice heard in a process that fully values and utilises the expertise, knowledge and passion of staff in the delivery of transformational education.

Being part of the New Academic Architecture group itself, I have valued working with some fantastic people from across the network of vocational and skills education. Being part of this group has given me a broader perspective of what is going on nationally.

The workstreams were set up to help chart the course for a revolutionary change to a large system. Working through the interconnections, accountabilities and contingencies within the system while the ground was continually shifting was challenging, but the willingness of busy people with demanding jobs to take the time to be part of this workstream provided me with ongoing excitement and encouragement throughout the process.

I am proud that our group continued to assert the central role of principles from Te Ao Māori in our New Academic Architecture. Embedding mātauranga Māori and the principle of ōritetanga in the structures of NZIST is only a first step towards ensuring our vocational education and training system serves all of our people in Aotearoa - but it is a crucial one to take.

Having been an educator in the tertiary sector for over 15 years, and a senior member of the Tertiary Education Union, I have a strong focus on the power of collective and participatory models that draw the best from staff knowledge and expertise. I worked hard to promote structures that make room for staff voice and that our workstream proposals considered the practical impact on teaching, learning and research. It is these strengths and our shared voice as union members, and as staff on the frontlines of tertiary education that we must continue to bring to the table in the ongoing development of NZIST.

Last month, the NZIST Council announced 12 appointments to its new Academic Board, and unfortunately the appointments contain few active educators, and no student representation. The appointment of mostly executive-level members on Boards goes against so much that we as staff, students and TEU members have fought for in the development of NZIST. It is therefore crucial that we as TEU members, staff and students continue to take every opportunity we can to make our voices heard.

Together, we can build upon all we have achieved in improving both the education outcomes of students, the working environment of staff, and the future of vocational education in Aotearoa. But in order for that to occur, we must be represented in bodies with national oversight.

You can read TEU organiser Jill Jones on Mobilising the New World: Learner Journey Mapping here.

TEU has won a substantial  extension to the time frame for submissions on the Mobilising the New World Reports. Contact your branch president/s or organisers to get involved in the conversation.