A couple of years ago this government decided to take all the Independent Tertiary Providers (ITP’s) such as WINTEC and align them under one national banner. They cited efficiency and consistency of standards at the time. Contrary to one politician’s assertion, they even placed the National headquarters for the newly christened Te Pūkenga in Hamilton. But as the machine begins to ramp up what does it mean for our fair city? Jamie and David have some contrasting thoughts.
The creation of Te Pūkenga, the amalgamation of polytechnics, will enhance not just Hamilton’s identity but also help build a stronger foundation of vocational learning in New Zealand. Once fully established it will be New Zealand’s largest tertiary provider and the 35th largest globally.
Our Government is putting regional New Zealanders at the heart of our decision making and helping get more people into well-paid and high-skill jobs especially in the trade industry.
An important part of this is ensuring New Zealanders have the skills and training required by the industry.
Institutions that provide these skills, like Wintec, are key to our identity and future success as a region.
Upon forming Government in 2017, we soon realised that the future of a number of these important institutions was in jeopardy, with $53 million of losses occurring in the sector in 2017. That’s why we took action in our vocational education sector. If we didn’t bring about changes, we would have risked losing some polytechnics altogether, which would be devastating for the regions of New Zealand.
For Hamilton it is even better as Te Pūkenga’s headquarters will be based in our city bringing with it more workers to help reinvigorate our CBD whilst continuing the trend of major organisations making the shift to the Waikato.
This Government is committed to preserving the strong regional campuses for current and future generations with a strong focus on trades.
Recently it was announced that BCTIO, the largest provider of construction trade apprenticeships in New Zealand, had 20,000 apprentices in training which is an all-time record for them. This was helped by our Government’s Apprenticeship Boost.
The boost provides up to $1000 a month for first-year apprentices and $500 a month for second-year apprentices. Since it was rolled out in August 2020, over 10,000 employers have signed up and received almost $97 million in subsidies for over 21,000 apprentices throughout New Zealand.
The Government has combined all ITP’s into one grand organisation. On the face of it, this may appear to have some merit with reduced planning and managerial departments in each individual ITP. They will argue that it gives consistency across the country.
These are laudable aims, but they can still be achieved within the provision of individual ITP’s. There can be more prescriptive approaches to internal services and courses provided while at the same time leaving open regional autonomy.
For example, the University of Waikato could be lumped into all other Universities in New Zealand to create a University of New Zealand. This would have some advantages in potential organisational savings, but it would mean the loss of the character and strengths of individual institutions.
Another complicating issue is that all industries are not equal in the assets, liabilities and revenue streams that they have in front of them. Some may have more assets than others, and the nationalisation of assets involves the creation of winners and losers. Regions tend not to forget if they think that they are subsidising another region.
The nationalised body, Te Pūkenga, is based in Hamilton. Initially, this will involve some advantages for Hamilton. The thirty or so staff and the organisation are on high payrolls, and assuming they live in Hamilton, this is good for our city. However, these short term gains could be unwound as being based in Hamilton, the WINTEC, as their local provider here, could be subject to greater scrutiny as it is easy for Te Pūkenga to access and monitor.
Overall, the provision of these services in Hamilton will have an immediate positive result for Hamilton; however, if Te Pūkenga becomes somewhat of a flop, then Hamilton’s WINTEC could be on the most significant losing end of their reform.
Overall, the independence of regional entities like WINTEC is more important than centralised services. Although these services may have some advantage in being Hamilton-based, the long term effects may not be so optimistic as everyone grapples with the nationalisation agenda.