New Zealand’s Reform of Vocational Education (RoVE): An Update

Claudia Reiners
January 15, 2020

New Zealand’s Reform of Vocational Education (RoVE): An Update

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

It’s been 4 months since the Reform of Vocational Education (RoVE) was announced in New Zealand, and there have been many tangible developments since its announcement in August 2019.

On December 17th, 2019, the ‘Workforce Development Councils’ (WDCs) were officially announced – the new industry-governed bodies that will ‘enable industry to take a lead in making New Zealand’s workforce fit for today and the future.’

These WDCs are intended as a long term initiative that will gradually replace many of the responsibilities of the current Industry Training Organisations (which will be disestablished), and will provide the Government with continual advice on the skills needed by industry.

The WDCs will also advise the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) on how it can support and invest in training and education that New Zealand needs in the long term.

WDCs will set standards, develop qualifications and help shape the vocational education curriculum.

What are the new WDCs?

There are six WDCs that will be formed, as announced by Minister Chris Hipkins on December 17th, 2019. The initial RoVE announcement had said that there would be between four to seven WDCs. The reforms will be taking place gradually over the next couple of years, however the Government had deemed the formation and announcement of the WDCs as a top priority.

In September and October 2019, the TEC undertook a comprehensive consultation process to inform the formation of the WDCs, with five public workshops attended by organisations, 30 meetings with individual industry associations and employers, as well as participation at 25 Industry Training Organisation (ITO) events.

According to the government, the six new WDCs will cover the majority of industries, employing 2.5 million people and covering half a million businesses across New Zealand.

Unlike the current ITOs, it is said that the industries and sectors currently not covered by ITOs will now be covered by these new groups, giving a voice to these industries that previously did not have representation. Some of these industries include web and graphic design, fashion, ICT and teacher support qualifications.

The current ITOs are also said to represent industry bodies, however, they are unable to influence the type or standard of training delivery.

The six new WDCs will cover:

  • Creative, Cultural and Recreation

    Graphic, creative and web design, game development, museums, libraries and archiving, performing arts, film and music, hairdressing and beauty therapy, communications, recreational facilities/venues and sport.

  • Primary Industries

    Agriculture, horticulture, fishing, aquaculture, equine, silviculture and harvesting, and sports turf management.

  • Service Industries

    Wholesale trade, retail trade, accommodation and food services, tourism, cleaning, rental, hiring/leasing and real estate services, contact centres, business services, and financial services.

  • Health, Community and Social Services

    Health care, social support services, funeral and embalming, offender management, emergency services, and education.

  • Manufacturing Engineering Logistics and Technology

    Manufacturing and processing, extractives and drilling, transport (including heavy and commercial), postal, warehousing, engineering, and information and communications technology (development and systems engineering) industries.

  • Construction and Infrastructure

    Construction (including heavy, civil and residential) and associated industries and trades, and infrastructure including water supply, electricity and gas transmission, road and bridge building, and sewage.

With the RoVE legislation to be introduced on 1st April 2020, the WDCs will take over some of the responsibilities that sit under the current ITOs, such as ensuring qualifications meet industry standards and additional roles.

Some examples of these are:

  • Providing skills leadership for their industry.
  • Providing advice to the Tertiary Education Commission on funding decisions.
  • Endorsing programmes that lead to qualifications. Without WDC confidence, a programme won’t be approved or funded.
  • Providing employers with brokerage and advisory services.

The WDCs won’t be involved in apprenticeship arrangements and on-the-job training, unlike the current ITOs.

Why WDCs?

Off the back of the RoVE announcement in August last year, the government stated that:

“We heard from some employers that the industry training system works well for them, and that they want to keep what works while also improving what doesn’t. At the same time, the system should aim to cover all industries and enable more employers to access on-the-job training.”

It was also established that learners weren’t always gaining the right skills, and that apprentices and trainees weren’t getting the support they needed in the current system.

The current ITOs are also said to represent industry bodies, however they are unable to influence the type or standard of training delivery.

What will happen to the ITOs under this new model?

Current ITOs (there are 11 ITOs currently in operation) will be supported in the transition until 31 December 2022 to ensure that there are no disruptions to current training.

According to Minister for Education, Chris Hipkins:

“We’ve assured the vocational and education sector that implementing these changes will not be rushed and we will build a phased, gradual transition process to minimise disruption.”

“The other current role of ITOs – the responsibility for day-to-day support for apprenticeships and other on-the-job training – will shift from ITOs to the Institute of Skills & Technology and other providers such as wānanga and private training establishments.”

The original RoVE announcement made reference to claims that there are 30,000 fewer New Zealanders participating in on-the-job training, apprenticeships and traineeships compared to 10 years ago. It is also said that over 70% of employers surveyed stated that there is or will be a skills shortage in their industry area.

The current system has not produced the results needed to drive the New Zealand economy forwards, and the new WDCs will hopefully fulfil the RoVE’s aims in developing a system that is ‘more collaborative and networked, has more industry and local input, and creates more opportunities for people to access consistent and quality training closer to where they live.’

The transition of training will take place over the next three years – hopefully this is enough time to ensure there are no disruptions to those currently undertaking training.

Industry Feedback

Competenz, one of the industry’s largest ITOs, has said that the announcement of the skills-aligned WDC structure is the ‘best possible news.’

Fiona Kingsford, Competenz Chief Executive has said that the formation of the WDCs is “aligned to the feedback our industries provided during consultation so it’s encouraging their views were listened to and to see this structure has been adopted.”

Industries that are currently covered by Competenz will make up the majority of industries covered by the new Manufacturing, Engineering, Logistics and Technology WDC. While there will be some industries that Competenz does not currently cover under this new WDC, these additional industries are covered by current ITOs: MITO, NZMACITO, Service IQ and Primary ITO. Competenz will most likely play a significant role in the formation of this new WDC.

Fiona Kingsford has also gone onto say that:

This grouping supports the future of work, ensuring New Zealand has a strong workforce that has the skills and capabilities to keep pace with automation and technology changes in our industries.

Fiona Kingsford
Competenz Chief Executive

The Future

According to the New Zealand Government’s Summary of Feedback, during consultations late last year, many in the industry voiced their concerns about ‘becoming part of a larger grouping than their current Industry Training Organisation grouping.’

There was also support for shared services and functions across the six WDCs, but limited agreement on what this might mean and how it may be arranged.

During the consultations it was also agreed that further work would be needed on WDC governance.

It’s encouraging the government has been able to take action on one of the more significant changes of the RoVE so early on in the process.

We hope that there is a smooth transition and that the WDCs can better lead the industry towards fulfilling skills shortages and better workforce training in the future.

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Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy
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