TEU representatives have met with the New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology (NZIST) incoming Chief Executive Stephen Town to talk the future of vocational education and what staff, learners, and communities need.

The zoom hui and briefing come before Town took up his job. The discussion with branch representatives from across Aotearoa included questions on regional provision, co-design, transparency and autonomy, and staff and student empowerment. All these matters are vital to the ongoing success of NZIST and the reforms to the vocational education sector.

Town was briefed by TEU ahead of last week’s hui. The briefing indicates a number of issues that need to be addressed if NZIST is to operate in a way which ensures the success of NZIST in meeting its objectives and the success of vocational education across Aotearoa.

A central concern of TEU representatives is ensuring the confidence of communities, local iwi, hapū, and local industry in our smaller polytechnics following successive years of course cancellations and decreased campus delivery. Town assured TEU that building this trust and confidence will be crucial moving forward, as NZIST continues to work with the regions in ensuring regional ambitions and abilities are reflected through local provision. Town talked about building the NZIST model of provision from the ‘extremities’ of the regions inward to the urban centres.

TEU representatives also expressed concern over the growth in management and managerialism, the stifling of staff and student voice, and the variation across providers in allowing TEU branch presidents and representatives time to balance both their professional role, and their function as union representatives.

Town acknowledged the quieting of staff and student voice, and agreed more must be done to promote and allow for staff and students to voice concerns and be involved in decision-making. He acknowledged that that process will take time and the imperative to speed everything up in the formation of NZIST cannot be allowed to cut across staff involvement.

For TEU National Secretary Dr Sandra Grey, continued engagement from the NZIST Chief Executive with TEU representatives was another positive step in terms of the kind of leadership needed for NZIST to succeed and meet its objectives:

“The NZIST Chief Executive has acknowledged the areas of reform in which there is still work to be done, but has also assured us that NZIST is committed to working with TEU, staff, students and communities in building a stronger vocational education sector and addressing the concerns we are hearing from staff and regional communities”.

TEU members are ready to take up the challenge of ensuring the reforms of vocational education and training lead to a system that improves the learning and working conditions of students and staff, and improves the learning outcomes of ākonga. TEU thanks the Chief Executive for his time and continued engagement with all stakeholders throughout this process.