The NZ Institute of Skills and Technology Establishment Board is currently visiting 15 locations around the country, hosted by ITPs, for a series of Regional Kōrero as part of the Reform of Vocational Education. The proposed Institute of Skills & Technology legislation is set to come into effect by 1 April 2020.

IST Establishment Board representatives met with more than 450 Otago Polytechnic – Te Kura Matatini ki Otago staff to kick off the Regional Kōrero. For TEU branch president Craig West the meeting provided an important opportunity for open, honest and upfront discussions, and to ease any concerns around what 1 April 2020 will bring.

According to West there are still a number of areas of uncertainty, including around the issue of academic freedom, the role and power of the proposed Workforce Development Councils, and importantly, the issue of funding.

“Many staff still feel unclear and uneasy around academic freedom under the new system. Much of this uncertainty stems from a real concern from staff that under the new model there may be less independence from staff in their ability to shape and structure course content and how it is delivered. The last thing staff and students want, and the last thing communities need is a prescribed, one-size-fits all approach to delivering vocational education. I think some clarity around this would put a lot of people’s minds at ease”.

TEU has expressed concerns to the Minister of Education about the issue of the academic freedom of NZIST staff. In a letter to the Minister TEU has argued that there must be a balance between the expertise of academic staff and the industry led Workforce Development Councils.  TEU wants academic voices to be part of the conversation and is pleased that the government is seeking expressions of interest from people who would like to be part of the design teams.

A major concern expressed by Otago Polytechnic branch members, and staff in attendance at the Regional Kōrero was the persistent issue of funding. Te Whare Wānanga o te Awakairangi – Weltec TEU branch president Drew Duncan agrees that the issue of funding needs to become a priority:

“With the new funding model yet to be decided, and with a decision not likely before 2023, how can we make all these changes and worry about the funding afterward? Funding has in many cases been the cause of much of the issues the sector has faced in recent times, and is fundamental to realising the positive change we want to see in the sector”.

A second meeting with Otago Polytechnic staff and community leaders provided an opportunity for Board representatives to give an update on the proposed name and branding. With Pūkenga Aotearoa the preferred name currently tabled for discussion, branch president Craig West noted many in attendance did not feel the proposed name adequately captures what the Institution is, what it will do, or what it stands for.

Broad public engagement in naming the new Institute will begin 14 February, following the end of the Regional Kōrero.