As well as progressing the transformational work Te Pūkenga is firmly focused on, we have pivoted rapidly to address the lasting impacts of COVID-19 on learners, employers and subsidiaries.
We have established both regional and sector-led working groups, and these groups are developing approaches to address the needs of all of those involved in the vocational education and training system, including international students.
Te Pūkenga Chief Executive, Stephen Town, says, “So much collaboration is happening across our broad network to minimise the impacts of COVID-19 on learner success. This mahi is critical for New Zealand’s future and shows that together as a unified group, we are capable of developing scalable innovative and adaptive solutions.
“I’m heartened by the passionate teams in our network who are strengthening outcomes for learners by using the size, scale and expertise in our Te Pūkenga network. There will be many successful initiatives to celebrate as we navigate through our pandemic response to a new kind of normal.”
Confirming skills and experience
Many people in workplaces across the country are concerned about job security and want to quantify and formalise the skills and experience they have obtained on the job. We are working with TEC and NZQA to develop guidelines that assist people by having their prior learning recognised and formally certified.
A good example of this is taking place with a group of transitional ITOs and subsidiaries involved in construction (BCITO, Skills Org, Connexis, Weltec, MIT, Unitec, Ucol, Witt, Toi Ohomai and the Te Pūkenga head office) who are working together to build an ITO/subsidiary interface so they can ’catch’ apprentices who may become displaced as a result of COVID. Where an apprentice wants to carry on with their learning but is no longer employed in their area of study (or employed at all), a framework has been developed so they can move seamlessly between work-based and classroom-based learning. This framework applies to all types of apprenticeships and to a large extent starts to build how learners can transition easily between work-based and classroom-based learning as envisioned under RoVE. This model is being considered as the benchmark for other subgroups and TEC has been approached to undertake a trial.
Meeting employers needs
Employers who recognise they may need to retrain and reskill their employees to respond to COVID-19 impacts will be supported by the development of a national repository of courses and micro-credentials that Te Pūkenga subsidiaries can tap into, drawing on the size, scale and connections the network now provides.
Subsidiaries might, for example, recognise the need to provide displaced hospitality workers with alternative learning opportunities and respond quickly to regional needs. They will be able to access the repository, get the micro-credentials they need, establish how they will deliver the learning, and make it quickly available. This will benefit employers’ critical short/medium term skill requirements, ensure employees can be quickly reskilled, and provide a centralised access point to resources on a national basis that will continue to be enhanced.
Continuing learning or retraining
Infometrics data shows people who work in hospitality, tourism and retail have been most affected by COVID-19. To help enable these workers the choice to retrain or switch career, our subsidiaries have launched a range of initiatives around the country.
Subsidiary collaboration initiatives
NorthTec, in partnership with Work Ready, NorthChamber, People Potential and supported by MSD, launched the Tai Tokerau Skills Centre Plus – Te Rua o Pūkenga at their city centre learning hub in Whangarei in June. This centre is a key portal where people seeking employment and skills can come to a one-stop-shop and access services and courses. Another positive outcome from the Tai Tokerau Skills Centre has been the ability to connect with a range of partners and consider a range of future events and activities.
NorthTec’s Acting Chief Executive, Jon Smith, said, “This is an important milestone for NorthTec, a city centre presence to further meet the needs for our community has been talked about for several years. The current vision for the Tai Tokerau Skills Centre Plus - Te Rua o Pūkenga is a key portal, where people seeking employment and skills can come to a one-stop-shop and get access to services they need.”
Otago Polytechnic is very engaged with their communities through both study options and supporting local industries to help fill seasonal staff shortages. They have represented the local tertiary sector at the Kia Kaha Centre in Queenstown for four weeks, sharing tertiary education opportunities and study advice to those people facing redundancy or looking for a career change.
Megan Gibbons, Otago Polytechnic’s Chief Executive, says, “We are running another initiative with Kia Kaha Centre in October across ten weeks and in multiple locations.
“The feedback from our first round was fantastic, and the Government’s Study for free Targeted Training and Apprenticeship Fund (TTAF) initiative could not have come at a better time. We were also involved in ‘Jobbortunities’ a speed-dating style job and training event which happened in Queenstown in early October. We were there to engage with people and share study options for those displaced by COVID-19.”
UCOL and EIT received funding from MPI to relaunch agricultural learning at Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre, south of Masterton. The initial focus is on ‘taster camps’ introducing people to opportunities available when you work on the land. This learning supports the future of New Zealand’s primary industries which is shifting rapidly, and COVID-19 has shown there is a high need for diverse, innovative new people and skills within the industry. The Taratahi initiative is helping to support people to find new career opportunities and livelihoods.
The Service Sector working group consisting of ServiceIQ, MIT, Wintec and SIT, initially held meetings with employers and industry associations across tourism, hospitality and retail to gain insights into the assistance displaced employees need, new skills required by the industry (critical, short and mid-term) and the mode of delivery.
The Service Sector working group was also acutely aware that many trainees, particularly those in apprenticeships, were also impacted by COVID-19, especially when their employers had to down-size.
Chef tutors from MIT, Wintec, EIT and staff from ServiceIQ got together and developed a range of solutions to help transition trainee chefs, displaced from their workplaces, into subsidiaries where they could continue their learning. This means that their learning can continue for the interim until they can get back into on-the-job training, keeping them in the vocational education and training system.
Considerable uncertainty remains about the long-term economic ramifications of COVID-19 and there are differing views about the ability of the New Zealand economy to bounce back.
What we are certain about is that transformation is occurring. Building a unified sustainable reimagined vocational education and training system will put learners at the very heart, increase accessibility for all and ensure equitable outcomes for Māori.
The change happening across the vocational education and training sector underpins the ability of Te Pūkenga network to collaborate widely. Subsidiaries, transitional ITOs, partners and external agencies are working together and putting our learners at the very heart of their decision-making.