RoVE, CoVEs and WDCs – the reform of vocational education

The reform of vocational education (RoVE) is underway, with WDCs to be established that will take over some of the key functions of the current ITOs

Minister of Education Chris Hipkins introduced the Education (Vocational Edu-cation and Training Reform) Amendment Bill on 26 August 2019 to create a unified and cohesive vocational education and training system and help New Zealanders prepare for the future of work.

A major change is the move of industry training organisations (ITOs), which support apprenticeships and other on-the-job training, to the New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology and other providers like wananga and private training establishments (PTEs).

The scope of the reform of vocational education (RoVE) is to create workforce development councils (WDCs) that will:

  • Develop leadership plans for skills, set-ting a vision for the workforce around their specific industry and thus able to influence vocational education and training systems
  • Give advice to the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) on funding decisions
  • Endorse programmes or courses that will lead to qualifications (apprenticeships, on/off campus) but only if fully sup-ported by a WDC (which is essentially the industry itself)
  • Offer advice to employers, but not in charge of organising apprenticeships or other types of training.

From ITOs to WDCs

WDCs are likely to be established after 1 April 2020 – the time expected for the Education Amendment Bill to be passed. The plan is to establish six WDCs with transport and logistics to be hosted under a WDC that will cover manufacturing, engineering, logistics and technology (MELT). The components of MELT as it stands will be from existing ITOs:

  • Competenz (except lift and escalator services, forestry, biosecurity, journalism, graphic design, sign making)
  • MITO
  • Primary ITO (petrochemicals, energy and chemical plant, seafood, meat and dairy processing)
  • Service IQ (aviation)
  • Some ICT qualifications developed by NZQA.

Each WDC will be made up from industry members, with TEC in charge to identify their governance arrangements and board appointments as the WDCs need to represent all industry interests. Transitional ITOs will be established by 1 April 2020 to maintain current ITO capability until the WDCs are up and running and a provider has taken on the responsibility for arranging training. The transitional timeline is likely to be completed by the end of 2022. Right now, there is no change to the existing training arrangement via ITOs.

Extensive consultation was completed regarding WDCs, including five public work-shops (attended by 294 people), workshops with ITOs, government organisations and officials, 30 meetings with industry associations (CILT was not included) and regional engagement meetings with MBIE.

Next steps

The next steps are to establish regional skills leadership groups (RSLGs), which will provide advice about the skills needed within their regions to TEC, the WDCs, and local vocational education providers; and Te Taumata Aronui, a group that will help ensure that RoVE reflects the Government’s commitment to Maori Crown partnerships.

A New Zealand Institute of Skills & Tech-nology (NZIST) will bring together the existing 16 ITPs (institutes of technology and polytechnics) to provide a unified, sustainable, public network of regionally accessible vocational education. This will shift the role of supporting workplace learning from ITOs to providers. The new institute and other providers will support workplace-based, on-the-job training as well as delivering education and training in provider-based, off-the-job settings, to achieve seamless integration between the settings and to be well connected with the needs of industry. Stephen Town, current CEO of Auckland Council, was named as the inaugural chief executive of NZIST on 4 February and will take up his role on 6 July 2020.

Centres of vocational excellence, or CoVEs, will be established, which will bring together the NZIST, other providers, WDCs, industry experts and leading researchers to grow excellent vocational education provision and share high-quality curriculum and programme design across the system.

A unified funding system will apply to all provider-based and work-integrated education at certificate and diploma qualification levels 3 to 7 (excluding degree study) and all industry training.

What does it all mean in practical terms?

While the transitional period seems straightforward, the next phase is a bit unclear – like who will have the conversation on marketing apprenticeships? Will the courses across the 16 ITPs be fully cross-credited without much fuss (as otherwise it is not worth doing)? How much influence will NZIST have in terms of course or degree choices versus the view of WDCs and RSLGs (as, after all, they have class-rooms to fill)?

It is also unclear who will be responsible for assessing the quality of the courses across the 16 ITPs to ensure consistency of marking. What will be the influence of territorial local authorities (TLAs), iwi groups and others in terms of the local availability of courses on offer? I expect ITPs to be in charge of high FTE (full-time equivalent) or full degree courses, whereas PTEs may offer short courses. Internationally, there is a trend for industry to offer more on-the-job courses, versus having students wasting time on courses they are not likely to need down the track. It is nevertheless unclear how the very different needs of small and large industries will be balanced by the WDCs.

We are likely to see substantial changes with, hopefully, mitigation of the disconnect between industry and training that we have seen in the past.

Dr Jean-Paul Thull is the chair of the CILT NZ education