TEU members around New Zealand are pleased to see that there will be a charter accompanying the reform of vocational education that sets down everyone’s responsibility to ensure regional and metropolitan communities have access to vocational education and training in what the Minister has said will be a “coherent and coordinated national system”. Striking a balancing between this national oversight and ensuring a future where strong regional presence in communities is the norm, nationwide, was felt by those from our smaller regions as being key to the success of the new system.

According TEU co-branch President and Senior Academic at Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki, Ian Clothier, education must deliver for everyone, no matter where they live or the stage of their learning journey. Clothier says the stability the government is seeking for the sector is important in achieving high quality, accessible tertiary education for everyone.

“There is a strong potential for greater stability for institutions vulnerable to turbulence such as fluctuating numbers and an associated fluctuating income. This particularly impacts small regional polytechnics. Having some capacity to determine local needs and fund local programmes should preserve unique delivery. Yesterday’s announcements appear to be an invitation to be innovative, which is what we in the sector do best”.

Clothier says there are some concerns from the smaller, more vulnerable regions, but members at WITT are feeling encouraged by the announcements, are feeling listened to by the government, and supported by their union. “If you’re a polytech, at the moment if you have fluctuations in student numbers you have fluctuations in income, and that really is a difficult thing to battle and does make the smaller institutions vulnerable, which are the ones in the regions. So, the prospect of there actually being some relief from that, of there being a long-term deal, the prospects are really positive”.

TEU National Secretary Sharn Riggs says it is important to note from yesterday’s announcements that the ‘regions’ were about more than town and city centres, and that once the sector stabilises through changes to funding and increased confidence in the sector, in the long-term, there may be opportunities for expansion of provision.

The Charter of the new vocational education provider will stipulate the need to provide programmes across the regions of New Zealand, there will therefore be no centralisation of the new entity into Auckland and Wellington. Riggs says this is important for students and their whānau – as place-based learning is important – but also for TEU as a union because members need jobs in their local communities.

Clothier added, “this is a great day for polytechs, for polytech staff, for allied, general, and academic, and for the TEU. It’s really great to have a such a positive impact from government, to feel a positive pulse coming from government, because for over ten years now it’s all been so negative. Suddenly it feels like vocational education is being valued, and that is a great thing”.

The TEU will push to ensure the government follows through on its ongoing promises to provide proper transition funding and continue to support and expand regional provision.