Education and Post-COVID-19 in New Zealand

Claudia Reiners
May 28, 2020

Education and Post-COVID-19 in New Zealand

4bf428ed6af9ff680b7ac8b24b046f3d?s=50&d=mm&r=g Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy

The post-COVID-19 world is already influencing education policies globally, and New Zealand is starting to see the long term impact on its tertiary education sector.

The formation of the new Workforce Development Councils (WDCs) will now be fast-tracked to help support New Zealand’s COVID-19 recovery.

Additionally, the recently announced 2020 Budget contains substantial measures in response to the COVID-19

2020 Budget

The 2020 budget includes significant funding towards the tertiary sector, including:

  • $334.1 million for additional tertiary education enrolments
  • $320 million targeted training and apprenticeship fund (in critical industries)
  • Up to $412 million support for employers to retain and keep training their apprentices
  • $276 million funding for Workforce Development Councils and Regional Skills Leadership groups (to strategically plan for the recovery of industries and jobs from the impact of COVID-19, give industry and regions a greater voice and help them respond to COVID-19)
  • $141 million for a general 1.6% increase to tertiary education tuition and training subsidies to meet cost pressures

The NZ Government has signalled that the 2020 Budget is a ‘recovery’ budget, and that it has largely been “reframed to largely focus on cost pressures and responding to COVID-19”.

The Government has also stated that the Budget will focus on the first two points below, and that more details of COVID-19 initiatives will be added over time:

  • Immediate: fighting the virus and cushioning the blow
  • Recovery: positioning for recovery from the impact of COVID-19
  • Resilience: significant long-term change to reset and revitalise government and the economy for the future.

In simple terms, NZ $1.6 billion has been allocated towards new tertiary spending. With a focus on a skills-based recovery; vocational education is the main recipient of the funds, with uncertainty around just how much the universities will receive.

The ‘fees-free’ vocational training initiative will be extended to all the unemployed and not just school leavers.

Chris Hipkins, Education Minister, has said that:

“As we emerge from this health crisis, it is important that we now invest in training and education for people who might have lost their jobs or want to move into a different sector where prospects are better,

“It will include courses linked to industry skills needs, in building and construction, agriculture, and manufacturing, and also vocational courses like community health, counselling and care work. The fund will be available from 1 July 2020.”

It is still unclear just how many places will be made available for free training and which vocational courses will be eligible.

The 2020 Budget announcement is a clear sign of the times ahead for a post-coronavirus society. The details around free training are not yet established, which suggests that the policy was rushed out the door. Given the quick decision making, it will be interesting to see how this develops over the coming weeks and months.

Workforce Developments Councils

On Thursday, 14 May 2020, the Minister of Education announced that the formation of all six WDCs would be fast-tracked for the establishment by a target date of October 2020 -ahead of the original target of mid-2021 – to help support New Zealand’s COVID-19 recovery.

The formation of the WDCs is a key part of the recently announced Reform of Vocational Education (RoVE) . The Government has stated that “Enabling all six WDCs to be in place earlier will contribute to a strong, unified vocational education system to help lessen the social and economic impacts of COVID-19.”

It is hoped that the WDCs will be able to influence vocational education and training quicker than had previously been planned.

The unified system, which will replace the current Industry Training Organisations, is aimed at supporting industry, learners, employers, training providers and the regions. The idea is that these industry councils are going to give the industry better control, and be more responsive to workers needs. The WDCs will be tasked with better managing skills shortages as well as current training and employer needs.

With a focus on giving industry better control and better managing current training and employer needs, the WDCs will hopefully play a significant role in reshaping the training sector and the economy in post-COVID-19 New Zealand.

New Zealand was very quick to respond to COVID-19, and the 2020 Budget also seems to suggest that the Government is acting quickly, with measures aimed at supporting the economy in both the short and long term.

We look forward to bringing you more information and developments over the coming months, as the tertiary sector continues to reopen and handle the long term impacts and economic recovery.

Both a unified approach and response to the new world order are needed to carefully respond to COVID-19 impacts in New Zealand.

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Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy
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