Tertiary Update - Vol 22 No 1

To secure the future of the primary industry training delivered by the recently liquidated Taratahi Institute of Agriculture, Education Minister Chris Hipkins must step in urgently to bring all provision back into public ownership.The Tertiary Education Union (TEU) has told the Minister it would back a proposal put forward by a suitable public provider to take on the staff and the training previously delivered by Taratahi, New Zealand’s largest agricultural training provider.For this to happen, the TEU said, the Minister must commit to making sure the necessary resources, including transitional funding, are available as soon as possible.“The first priority must be to preserve the knowledge, skills and enthusiasm of hundreds of Taratahi staff and keep the courses they have developed over time intact. That will allow existing students to complete their qualifications and ensure the training that Taratahi provides continues into the future.“It has never been more important to have skilled workers in our burgeoning primary industry sector sector. At present there is a shortage of workers in the sector and that can cause a decline in enrolments, as potential students take up the chance of immediate employment. But that situation only emphasises the longer term need to have high quality training, at sub-degree level, available.“Taratahi runs trades academies in schools and STAR programmes – and it provides a bridge for urban students interested in the rural sector. Many of those who have had a taste of employment in agriculture will also want to specialise and upskill in the future. Michael Gilchrist, national president of the TEU, said.Shortly before the holiday break, Taratahi was placed into interim liquidation. Put simply this means that the institution’s assets have been secured pending a high court order that, if approved, would formally start the liquidation process.Taratahi took over the provision of tertiary-level training at Telford from Lincoln University’s around April 2017, a decision that was approved by the then National Minister Paul Goldsmith.Since the interim liquidation was announced just before Christmas, close to 2,500 students have been in limbo about their futures.Some of these people will be part way through a qualification, and some would have enrolled to begin their learning journey this year. Yet all may now have to postpone their education, or look for something else entirely.For staff, the situation is equally worrying. Returning from their holidays they were told they would have to go without pay whilst plans were worked through to decide the institution's future. The impact this will be having on individuals, their families and local communities is hard to imagine.The TEU has called on the Minister to step in immediately to support those affected and their families. If the Minister fails to do what he can to support these people, the TEU cautioned, it is likely that they would start looking for new jobs, creating the risk that these hugely skilled and dedicated staff would be lost to the sector for good.The TEU understands that work is currently going on behind the scenes on a proposal by a public provider to take on the staff and the training previously delivered by Taratahi.Should the Minister receive such a proposal, he must provide immediate assurances that the necessary funding will be provided, the TEU said. The short term costs of preserving the invaluable resources of Taratahi are far outweighed by the long term benefits.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Future of ITPs soon to become clearer
  2. Work underway on a new TES
  3. Gap between highest and lowest paid continues to grow

Other news

Shane Reti is the National Party’s new spokesperson for tertiary education, replacing Paula Bennett - National