With the Labour-led government about to imminently announce a major vocational education reform package it is alarming to see the educational opportunities of four communities under threat.

Management at Whitireia and WelTec are proposing to cut 27 programmes and 70 jobs across all teaching and learning spaces in Porirua, Petone, Central Wellington, and Auckland.

“We are stunned that the Chief Executive, Chris Gosling, and Commissioner, Neal Barnes, have proposed cuts on the eve of a major announcement aimed at providing a strong future for vocational education,” says Sharn Riggs, national secretary of the NZ Tertiary Education Union | Te Hautū Kahurangi.

Programmes like counselling and addiction, exercise science,engineering, and early childhood education are not only crucial to those students wanting opportunities but are crucial to the government’s current well-being plans for the nation as a whole, says Riggs.

“How can we look after the well-being of our communities if we are cutting learning in crucial areas of social service provision? How can we build infrastructure in our communities if we cut training for crucial engineering trades?”

A decade of institutions working under a broken funding model has hit the tertiary education sector hard. For Whitireia and WelTec it has meant restructuring and job losses, followed by more restructuring and cuts.

The TEU has repeatedly asked the Minister of Education to change the funding model which continues to be harmful to students and leads to excessive workloads for staff. While additional funding has not been provided,continued reductions in staffing and cancellation of courses are untenable.

Riggs says “Teaching staff at Whitireia and WelTec have been giving more and more every year due to a decision by management that a 1 to 20 staff: student ratio is ideal financially. What about what is ideal for the well-being of staff and the learning of students? It’s time these became the deciding factors in our polytechnics.”

The Tertiary Education union is calling on the Chief Executive to withdraw the proposal to cut jobs immediately and sit down with staff once the Reform of Vocational Education Announcement is released on 1 August.

“We accept that major structural reform is required across the entire vocational sector. However, the proposal to cut almost 20 per cent of the institution’s workforce is premature, misguided and will demoralise a workforce that has already experienced too many reviews. Poor leadership is no justification for continual change in the workplace,” says Riggs.

“Sadly unless the cuts are put on ice there may be little left for the institutions to offer in a reformed vocational education sector.”