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 organiser Jill Jones reflects on the contribution of the Learner Journey Mapping workstream, and the importance of staff participation in all aspects of the new Institute.

The Learner Journey Mapping workstream in which I participated was tasked with hearing and appreciating the journey of learners and better understanding how educators can support that journey.

In developing this understanding, the workstream extended consideration to all learners and their journeys, from traditional learners (including school leavers, full-time learners, those who live close to their institutions, those with no dependents, and with access to family financial support), to non-traditional learners (older learners, those in work, those who live at a distance from their institution, family commitments, no financial support).

Our team listened to approximately 75 learner stories. We identified over 100 different enablers and barriers to success and identified 45 that are common across multiple learners and modes of learning.

During our work 6 ‘persona’ were developed. According to the Learner Journey Mapping interim report,

“persona are a fictional representation of a larger cohort of learners, based on common behaviours and needs. When the barriers and enablers are considered across different modes, this provides insight into the journey for described persona. When the aspirations, motivations, needs and the requirements for the learners are layered across the persona, a rich description of what the future NZIST will need to consider and how success could be measured begins to be elicited”.

With a fellow team member, I was particularly involved in identifying barriers and enablers for the persona identified in the report as “Sal”. Sal is described in the report as a shy 20-year-old with mobility issues due to physical disabilities. She is both a resilient and vulnerable person who has faced many challenges over her life. These challenges include vulnerability to prejudice from both other students and staff.

In helping to identify the barriers and enablers ‘Sal’ and learners like her face, I was able to draw on my own experience, gathered over more than 20 years in supporting students in Sal’s situation. Interestingly, one of my own former students told her story to our group. I was also able to draw on a report, compiled by Level 7 students in 2017, on the access barriers faced by students in wheelchairs at an Institute of Technology campus.  

The NZIST charter aims to “empower staff on matters academic, non-academic, and well-being matters and matters relating to the organisation’s practices and services”. My experience over my years in the sector, as a TEU member, and through participation in the workstream, has reinforced for me that staff can only be empowered by having a voice in every aspect of the new Institute.

It is critical that NZIST ensures that staff voice is not silenced the way it so often has been under competitive market model approaches to tertiary education.

We should have an inclusive system that adapts and changes around learner needs. The system cannot be inclusive if staff are not represented every step of the way, whether it is on Work Force Development Councils, Regional Skills Leadership Groups or Academic Boards.

My involvement in NZIST so far has been interesting and empowering and I would encourage all TEU members and staff to take whatever opportunity they can to get involved, make their voice heard, and help shape the future of vocational education in Aotearoa.