Hands-on: New suggestions to reform the vocational sector in New Zealand

Natanael Rother
Insights Newsletter
30 August, 2019

We at the Initiative share Education Minister Hipkins’s desire for a stronger vocational sector. But we are less convinced that centralising the sector will solve the problem.

New Zealand’s 11 Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) and 16 Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs) are well established and dispersed all around the country. Yet, our vocational pathways are not nearly as well-embedded in the education landscape as options for university study. And they are too often dismissed by parents seeking the prestige of a university degree.

The government’s proposals give us the opportunity to reconsider how vocational training is organised. That reconsideration suggests that centralisation of vocational training solves none of the sector’s problems. Indeed, the Regulatory Impact Assessment classifies the proposals as highly risky and cost-intensive.

Instead, we think we need reforms making industry training more attractive for both students and employers, with it being seen as the route to a successful career.

To get there, we need to properly define the roles of different educational institutions in the vocational sector. Vocational training schools need to be truly independent and self-reliant, building successful partnerships with industry rather than coming cap-in-hand to government for support when their business models fail.

Our latest research note, Hands-on: New suggestions to reform the vocational sector in New Zealand, recommends implementing aspects of the dual education model used in places like Switzerland, Austria and Germany. There, many young people choose vocational pathways outside of university not because of a lack of alternatives, but because they see it as the best option for kickstarting their professional career.

A well-functioning vocational training system does not just provide great training, it also builds esteem for its graduates. In countries where dual-education is prevalent, the graduate of an apprenticeship enjoys the same respect a university graduate. The master-builder can be just as proud as the MBA graduate. And there are established pathways across the two education streams as well.

While our research note does not aim to solve all of the country’s vocational pathways problems, we hope to provide a bit of inspiration from overseas to show New Zealand what is possible. We can think bigger than centralisation.

Read Hands-on: New suggestions to reform the vocational sector in New Zealand here

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