Hau Taki Haere |Tertiary Update Vol 23, No 14
Balancing economic, social, and cultural needs is the key to success in the new vocational education system according to the Tertiary Education Union | Te Hautū Kahurangi. That balance will not be achieved if industry is given all of the power to determine training packages and training schemes – and to endorse or decline programmes created by providers.
That’s the message from academic and allied staff who have been meeting around the country to look at the government’s proposed legislation on the reforms – the Education (Vocational Education and Training) Amendment Bill.
The Bill, which is now before the Education and Workforce Select Committee appears to give excessive powers to Workforce Development Councils.
The balance and cooperation must be right between industry and educational specialists.
It’s fine for industry leaders to decide the graduate profile and the essential skills and knowledge that must be acquired in a trade or profession. There is also plenty of scope for industry to work with education specialists to develop core curriculum and inform assessments, particularly final or ‘capstone’ assessments.
But industry cannot simply determine the content of vocational education. That requires educational expertise to achieve a balance between the needs of students to develop a transferable base of knowledge and skills and the needs of employers for training tailored to their specific needs.
All students, whether work based or campus based, also need a broader education. They need to become informed and active citizens and responsible and reliable practitioners within their community.
"For this to happen, there must be a genuine partnership between industry, community, and experienced practitioners” said one polytechnic staff member.
Māori members at the recent Hui-ā-motu questioned whose knowledge and skills will be privileged if the power to determine qualifications and training packages sits only with industry.
“How do we ensure the social and cultural needs of communities are met? What consultation will occur, what co-construction of programme development will happen? We need all stakeholders to have equivalent power – iwi, academics, allied staff and industry,” said one member.
Another staff member, who works in a major voluntary organisation noted “There needs to be a way to capture the voice and needs of the volunteer sector … we have special challenges with access to training for necessary qualifications despite having highly skilled volunteers”
TEU Tumu Whakarae National President Michael Gilchrist says much of the re-balancing is about acknowledging that vocational education and training is not just about the economy and jobs.
“We’ve been putting forward a full and internationally robust definition of vocational education and training to MPs and officials. It’s time that they heard those working in the tertiary education sector more clearly. VET is not about skills, its about skills plus creating strong citizens, developing new knowledge, meeting Te Tiriti o Waitangi obligations, and so much more.”
‘There are encouraging signs that industry and business representatives do support a partnership approach. However, it is vital that members carry this message to the forums being run by the government to look at the roles and powers of Workforce Development Councils.
“Together we can make sure everyone has access to education that helps them become strong citizens and workers.”
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