National are claiming to have been leaked a Cabinet paper, in what it says will “strip power and assets from regional polytechnics” in wide-ranging reforms to the polytech and vocational training sector.
Tertiary spokesperson Dr Shane Reti said the paper “proposes to move from a system where vocational education is primarily split between 11 industry training organisations… and 16 institutes of technology… to an integrated model where around 4-7 workforce development councils have oversight of all vocational education”.
Dr Reti said the leaked paper showed the new model would be delivered by a single institution.
“National has obtained a Cabinet paper which outlines this information, the Government will take this paper to Cabinet on Monday,” Dr Reti said.
“The polytechs will be controlled by a head office. They will have their cash and community legacy assets ring fenced at head office. All other assets including buildings and land will be taken away and consolidated.”
Dr Reti said for “high performing polytechs like the Southern Institute of Technology this will be devastating”.
“More than a thousand jobs all over New Zealand will be lost,” Dr Reti claimed.
He said National would “fight” the reforms.
“We will fight for regional New Zealand and we will fight against idealistic educational reforms.”
Education Minister Chris Hipkins unveiled proposals in February, with a possible plan to bring all of New Zealand’s polytechnics and technology institutes under a unified banner.
Mr Hipkins said in a statement that the new entity has a working title of the New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology, and would incorporate all of the country’s 16 Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs).
“It’s time to reset the whole system and fundamentally rethink the way we view vocational education and training, and how it’s delivered,” Mr Hipkins said.
Concerns have been raised around the country over the proposed merger.
The Nelson City Council’s core concerns for the region’s biggest tertiary institute, NMIT, was a loss of control, land and millions of dollars.
The council is also concerned the changes may jeopardises the independence of NMIT.
There had also been criticism of the consultation period, with a major training organisation furious the Education Minister refused an extension for a plan that radically alters the industry.
Skills Active Aotearoa said they were given six weeks to consult with 25,000 employers and 145,000 trainees across the country.
Invercargill mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt said he was shattered when he heard news of the proposal of the merger in February, with his city home to the Southern Institute of Technology. The zero fees scheme saw enrolments growing from 1000 to 5000 students since it was introduced.
Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker was also shocked by the announcement, but said he saw some merit in the Government’s plans.
“We need reforms, we need a system that works better… but we can have our cake and eat it, we can have both worlds,” he told 1 NEWS in February.
Earlier in February, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said “far-reaching” vocational training reform would be a priority in 2019.
“We currently have a vocational education system that is in many cases, struggling,” she said at the time.
“Over the last two years this Government has been forced to spend $100 million to bail out four polytechnics, and that is a pattern that started before we took office. That is not the sign of a healthy and sustainable sector.”
Ms Ardern said” “Instead of our regional polytechnics and institutes of technology retrenching, cutting programmes, and closing campuses, we need them to expand their course delivery throughout the country”.