The TEU firmly believes tauira/learners and their whānau need to be at the heart of any vocational education model and the reform of vocational education and training provides an exciting and long-awaited opportunity to make positive strides in this direction. However, recent announcements from the National Party indicate a desire to continue down the path of competitive market approaches to education set by former Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce. This approach is continuing to have negative impacts on the sector with continual restructuring, and with learners in many communities missing out on courses they need to improve their lives, and those of their whānau and communities.

National has announced they propose to return the organising of industry training to revamped ‘industry like’ ITOs. This will just mean more competition and no one has benefited from competition between tertiary education providers.

National also believes centralised business intelligence across the whole ITP sector is important for decision-making and will explore a nationwide Enterprise Resource and Planning system for polytechnics. Unfortunately the competitive model makes this type of approach completely unviable. Only the proposed unified system can deliver on the benefits of co-operation and collaboration.

National proposes to support ITP funding mechanisms that better reflect the student journey including exploring ITP/PTE collaborations, but we know the focus needs to be on supporting public providers who are required to care for community.

The National Party’s plans around industry training, like many others, are just a return to the approach run by Steven Joyce when he was the Minister of Education. We gave Joyce an ‘F’ grade for the failed approach as it left our learners, communities and tertiary institutions wanting.

Chief among the National Party’s many announcements has been an indication that they will reconsider the Government’s first year fees-free policy. TEU members see daily that  financial barriers to accessing education are real, are hurting our school-leavers and their whānau, and are preventing and delaying young and older alike from entering the sector, upskilling and attaining a better future.

We need to remove all financial barriers to education and not allow the National Party to take away the positive gains we have made in improving access.

National proposes targeted scholarship support for Māori and an increased focus on foundation courses for PTE and Wānanga, and also proposes Māori co-development of curricula and targeted scholarship support for Māori. We know that truly positive education outcomes for Māori will come from Māori leading development of curricula and that support for Māori in tertiary education must include a systemic response for Māori across all providers.

National has announced they will explore sustainable models for Taratahi and Telford, but as we know, and as TEU Branch Presidents and members made clear on the steps of parliament last week, sustainable funding is an issue that extends beyond Taratahi and Telford.

The National Party proposes to ensure all young people are digitally fluent, more fluent in multiple languages, numerate, literate and have soft skills. They intend to release a plan prior to the next election around upskilling New Zealanders which includes greater opportunities for people to upskill while remaining in work. This is a commendable objective and one we all share, but National must work with both unions and employers in gaining greater understanding of what is needed to improve in-work training, upskilling, and the skills tauira/learners need to acquire now, and in the future.