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Te Pūkenga: the new on-the-job, online and on campus-based education system.

Few people understand just how radically Te Pūkenga will re-shape the contours and effectiveness of New Zealand tertiary vocational education, according to one of the new education network’s leaders.

In years to come educationalists will look back on the formation of Te Pūkenga New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology as a sensible solution to the current skills shortage, the organisation’s Warwick Quinn says.

Quinn, Deputy Chief Executive, Employer Journey and Experience at Te Pūkenga, says the network of integrated learning will support learners, employers and communities to provide the skills, knowledge, and capabilities Aotearoa New Zealand needs now and in the future.

Established about two years ago, Te Pūkenga will begin operations next year as New Zealand’s largest tertiary education provider. It will bring together 25 organisations (polytechnics, technology institutes and industry training organisations) currently working independently into a national network designed to provide better and more streamlined quality vocational education for more people.

Part of the government’ s Reform of Vocational Education, Te Pūkenga is radically changing an old system which many feel is less able to cope with the swings and roundabouts that typify modern economies – and which puts education providers in competition with each other, rather than helping to solve a national problem.

“At the moment, we have 16 polytechnics and 9 industry training organisations, all competing with each other,” says Quinn. “What we, as Te Pūkenga, will be able to do is provide learners and employers with complete and streamlined national programmes, put together by experts and employers to suit the country’s needs.”

The new system, Quinn says, is closer to the best-practice tertiary systems established in Germany, Switzerland and Israel which work closely with employers and industry. At present, the various tertiary providers offer either campus-based or work-based learning but it is difficult for learners to move between the two; many institutions do not have that flexibility.

“It’s important because most vocations need both,” says Quinn, “but the current set-up didn’t make it easy to achieve that – and the various institutions were in competition and not collaborating.”

Te Pūkenga, by bringing all the organisations under one roof, can blend campus-based, online and work-based learning so students and apprentices are not restricted to having to do all of their learning by one mode of delivery.

For example, on-the-job learning can be more easily supported or complemented with off-job learning to help apprentices finish their qualification when they find it difficult to do all that the qualifcation requires in the work place.

“By bringing together all the institutions, we also address the commercial frailty of a system which has organisations with a common aim but who are competing with each other.”

For example, in boom times, polytechnics often suffer because learners are out there getting jobs. In contrast, during downturns, industry training organisations suffer because few businesses – and 90-95 per cent had 10 employees or less – were taking on apprentices.

“We have to do something now,” says Quinn, “not just because of the current skills shortage but because things will only get worse. If you look at our demographics, you’ll see there are fewer school leavers as a percentage of our population and that is coinciding with an increasing number of New Zealanders reaching retirement.

“The old model just is not capable of addressing that – whereas Te Pūkenga will provide the assistance employers and learners want; a rationalised and national programme of consistency through the unification of the many programmes the system currently has.

Te Pūkenga is based around ako networks, proposed to cover seven “vocational pathways”, operating in four regions. The proposed pathways are:

  • Manufacturing, Engineering and Logistics
  • People, Food and Fibre
  • Services
  • Creative, Cultural, Recreation and Technology
  • Community, Health, Education and Social Services
  • Construction and Infrastructure
  • Mātauranga Māori

The proposed four regions are: Te Tai Tokerau (North: Northland, Auckland); Te Tai Rāwhiti (East: Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay); Te Tai Hau-ā-uru (West Taranaki, Manawatū, Whanganui, Wellington, Marlborough, Nelson/Tasman); Te Tai Tonga (South: West Coast, Canterbury, Otago, Southland).

Quinn says the other seismic shift Te Pūkenga will bring is a change in emphasis. Life will no longer be fitted around learning; learning will be fitted around life and what industry and business need in an ever-changing scenario: “This means access to more subjects, locations and more flexible ways of learning – on-the-job, on campus and online.”

As one national network, Te Pūkenga will be able to work more closely with industry and business to understand their needs and align training with the needs of employers and their staff and, with all the tertiary providers part of Te Pūkenga,” Quinn says: “Together we are stronger”.

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