Fast Facts

Business interface key to education reform

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The announcement of a vocational education reform is encouraging, however there needs to be closer links between business and education, says Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Leeann Watson.

The Reform of Vocational Education, announced by Minister of Education Chris Hipkins, proposes to create a New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology, redefine roles for industry bodies and education providers, and establish a unified vocational education funding system.

With employer investment still expected to help support the unified funding system, and with an onus on businesses to support some training options, Ms Watson says there needs to be a stronger focus on co-creation and collaboration with the business community.

“We applaud the fact that the Government has acknowledged that our education system needs to change,” says Ms Watson.

“But in doing so, we need to make the most of such a valuable opportunity to ensure our future education system is fit-for-purpose for a rapidly changing future and that Government, business and individuals all receive a commensurate return on investment.

“There needs to be a strong interface with business to identify current and future pressure points, and to provide training provisions to meet these needs. This will give learners confidence that they will have enhanced employment opportunities and business owners the security they can get the skills they need, when they need them, to support productivity and future growth.”

While there are obvious benefits to a centralised model, Ms Watson says that there still needs to be a strong regional lens.

“We need to ensure that in opting for a centralised model, there are still opportunities for open dialogue between local businesses and local education providers to ensure regional skills shortages are identified and met. This is vital for areas such as mid and North Canterbury that are experiencing considerable sector-based skills shortages.

“We’ve also got pockets where education and business currently work really well at a local level. We need for these kinds of partnerships to be strengthened in the design of a new model.”

As part of a developing and diverse workforce, Ms Watson says the reform also needs to consider the different requirements of two very distinct learning groups.

“There are two very separate markets, with different learning requirements and outcomes that need to be addressed in equal measure. The first is our young people at the beginning of their careers, who need the knowledge and skills to take their first step into the workforce; the second is those people who are already in employment who are looking to up-skill for professional development, career advancement and career change.

“The second group is becoming increasingly important given the exponential changes industry now face and the need for life-long learning and continuous upskilling.

“Our education system needs to be adaptive and agile enough to meet the changing needs of both markets.”

Source: Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce

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