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Stephen at Otago Poly Roadshow

Close to the end of the road

Over the past couple of months, Te Pūkenga Chair Murray Strong and Chief Executive Stephen Town have made their way around the country visiting the 16 subsidiaries. By the end of November, this roadshow series will be complete.

“This visit series was the first opportunity I have had since starting in my CE role mid-year to get my boots on the ground at many of our campuses around the country, and meet with learners, staff and a range of partners and stakeholders kanohi ke ti kanohi,” says Stephen. “It’s been incredibly worthwhile. I’ve been able to get some great insight into how things are going for each subsidiary, I’ve seen buildings and infrastructure, I’ve heard about a range of issues, and I’ve had the chance to get to know a range of dedicated subsidiary staff, and talk with some very engaged and motivated learners.”

“Since our first roadshow visit back in September, Murray and I have definitely noticed a growing number of staff and learners keen to participate in our sessions. After a tough year, it’s been great to see so much energy and enthusiasm,” says Stephen.

There has been a raft of questions that staff have taken the opportunity to ask Murray and Stephen during their visits. From qualifications, student services, capital expenditure and innovation, through to job security, Board mergers and what the future will look like.

“I’ve have been genuinely surprised, in a good way, at the range of questions staff and learners have asked me. It shows me that people are thinking hard about our collective future. Some of the questions have raised issues that I hadn’t considered, so they have helped me to think differently too.”

While each region is unique, with different challenges and opportunities to ponder, the most common theme running through staff questions has been linked to change: Will there be restructures? When will we see stuff happening? What will happen to our jobs?

“I can completely understand why staff are asking those questions. Everyone knows that the reform of vocational education will drive significant change across the sector, and I acknowledge it’s unsettling not knowing what it means yet,” says Stephen.

“I’ve tried to be really clear about a couple of things. We don’t have any of the answers yet. I don’t have a plan in my cupboard that I’ll pull out one day soon! That’s an important message. Our future will be co-designed as part of developing our operating model.

Reimagining vocational education and training is a journey we need to take together. Do it once, do it right. I anticipate we’ll be out collaborating with staff, learners, partners and stakeholders about early thinking for our operating model in the first quarter of 2021.”

Stephen has also been clear about restructures too. “The development of our operating model will create the framework on which we can then make definitive plans about the future of Te Pūkenga.  There will be no system level large-scale change implemented across the Te Pūkenga network until we have finalised the operating model and there is a plan to make any change required.” he said.

With subsidiaries in the top half of Te Ika-a-Māui left to visit over the next month, both Stephen and Murray are making plans to get back out on the road in early 2021. “It’s been such a worthwhile visit programme. One day in one place where there is so much to learn is tough. I know many would have liked us to stay a bit longer, see a bit more, and talk to a broader group of people. We’ll have the new DCEs helping out with the visits next time too – so I hope we can cover more ground and connect with many more learners, staff and partners,” says Stephen.

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, te toa taki tini.

My strength is not mine alone, but that of the collective.

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