Hamilton is still in the running to host the headquarters of the country’s new mega polytech.
Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) chief executive Tim Fowler was in Hamilton on Monday to meet with the Wintec Council.
TEC, together with the Education Ministry, are leading the reforms in vocational education and training announced by Education Minister Chris Hipkins in early August.
A key aspect of the shake-up is the merging of the country’s 16 polytechs and institutes of technology and Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) into one mega polytech.
Hipkins has already ruled out basing the head office for the new national institute in Wellington or Auckland.
One of the first jobs of the new establishment board is to recommend where to base the head office, Fowler said.
“No decisions have been made so I think everyone is in the running with the exception of Auckland and Wellington,” he said.
Fowler said a lot of focus has gone on the creation of a new national institute yet it was only one of seven key changes. An important part of the reforms is developing a new unified funding system.
“The reason why funding is important is because it’s the blood of the system and you need to have that blood circling around the system and at the moment it’s not,” he said.
“The funding system sends incentives to ITOs and ITPs (Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics) that set them up into competition, when what we know is we need to be building something that is far better and more collaborative.”
Several polytechs have had to bailed out by taxpayers in recent times, to the tune of $100 million.
Opposition MPs such as National’s Hamilton East MP David Bennett have slammed the reforms. Bennett said he has little faith the centralised body will represent Waikato’s unique interests or be flexible and innovative.
Bennett also said Wintec’s cash assets and land holdings could be lost to the centralised body.
Fowler said Wintec’s cash and liquid assets, which have been built up through hard work, will not be hived off to a national entity to be spent elsewhere.
New regional skills leadership groups will also ensure polytechs identify local skill needs and make sure the right mix of education and training is delivered in each region, Fowler said.
“I’ve also seen the comment that this [national institute] won’t be an innovative and flexible organisation because it’s large. I would say you may have noticed companies like Google and Amazon are actually quite innovative organisations for ones that are enormous. So size isn’t a determinant for flexibility or innovation, it’s actually mindset.”
Fowler said students currently enrolled at Wintec or prospective students won’t notice any immediate changes.
The name Wintec will be kept for the immediate future.
The long-term skills shortage experienced by several industries reflect the fact the current vocational education sector isn’t working, Fowler said.
“One of the key concepts out of this [sector] change is that we’re giving the employers the whip hand to say this is what we want, this is what we need.”