TEU’s National Secretary, Sharn Riggs, looks at a golden opportunity for the government to meet some of its well-being goals that comes through the Reform of Vocational Education.

Insecure work is a reality for far too many people working in our polytechnics,universities and wānanga.

The only future many working people can think about is making sure they can support their family month-by-month, which often means spending much of their time fighting to get another fixed-term appointment.

Institutes of technology and polytechnics have been starved of government funding for nearly 10 years thanks to the National government seeing education as a market,but the recently announced reforms of vocational education offer an opportunity to right some of the wrongs of recent years.

Most of the public money invested into tertiary education is spent on staffing. This is crucial. It is precisely because we are pooling our resources that we have huge numbers of professional, experienced, and expert people to teach our students.Yet because of the market model foisted on them by successive governments,institutional leaders have spent years trying to cut costs, all in the name of efficiency and balancing the books.

One of the most significant consequences of this cost cutting has been a relentless review of jobs and courses, leading to massive cuts and the replacement of permanent staff with more and more people on fixed-term and casual appointments.

Public money must be spent wisely, of course, but putting those that teach and support future generations of learners onto insecure employment agreements has an impact on everyone – the people on insecure agreements, their families, students, and the institution as a whole.

An outcome of the reform of the vocational education sector must be to acknowledge that polytechnics are functioning only because staff have been overworking or taking fixed-term and casual appointments which offer them no security or stability. We know this because we see it every day.

Let’s use the reform of vocational education to push for secure work and decent jobs in vocational education and across the entire tertiary education sector.Together, let’s raise awareness of the detrimental effects of insecure work on well-being. We must push for positive change so that all working people feel secure and valued in the work they do educating our students and supporting research excellence in our institutions.