Warwick says it’s been fascinating to ‘get under the hood’ of vocational education in New Zealand. “While ITOs have been very successful in recent years, there were things that were holding them back, and the reform of vocational education (RoVE) addresses many, if not all of these. I recall highlighting a list of things BCITO believed needed fixing for ITOs in a briefing to the incoming Minister of Education in 2017 and now when I look at RoVE, they all get ticked off.”
When asked about his career highlights, Warwick says, “Businesses tend to be on a particular trajectory, and many of the things that happen would probably have occurred anyway whether I was involved or not. In all my senior or Chief Executive roles, I look back with some pride on bringing a few things to the table each time that might not otherwise have occurred where the organisation or NZ Inc has benefitted. So I believe I have moved on from each role, knowing that I’ve left a business or organisation in better shape than when I arrived.
“I care about a whole raft of things, but if we limit it to the vocational education system, I care about employers and the incredibly valuable role they play in developing a truly world-class vocational education system. We traditionally call Te Pūkenga subsidiaries, PTEs and Wananga “providers”, in other words, they provide training but so do employers, in their thousands. Every dairy shed, hair salon and van with a ladder on the roof is a classroom and employers are core providers of vocational education by imparting their knowledge into the next generation. They are not something ‘over there’, but an integral part of the system and should be treated as such.
“Not all tennis players make the best coaches. I am keen to ensure employers are given the recognition and support they need to succeed in their role as teachers. Imparting knowledge in different ways that individual learners can consume is a skill in its own right and the more help we give businesses to do that the better off our VET system will be. All companies need to train and upskill their people to remain competitive. Still, employees don’t require a credential such as a New Zealand Certificate for companies to be competitive, but that is what we ask of them. So, if we make it too hard employers will disengage with the system at a time when we want them to engage even more. Employers are our teachers in the workplace, yet they are the only teachers who are not supported in the way traditional teachers are. That needs to change. The opportunity to be involved in this change is what attracted me most to Te Pūkenga.
“There are many challenges ahead, but first and foremost having an excellent understanding of employers and their needs is critical so that whatever we develop addresses their needs. We must put the employer at the centre of everything we do just as we put the learner at the centre. To me, they are both sides of the coin – one is the hammer head and the other the hammer handle. Collectively they make a fantastic tool, as Mitre 10 would say - everything you need and nothing you don’t. Employers needs are no different to learners needs. Each firm has its own challenges and issues, so if we can develop a system that is 35,000 cohorts of one, i.e. circa 35,000 firms train, then we will go a long way towards growing that base further.
“What we’re trying to build here is something completely new. It isn’t a ‘mega poly’ with tacked on ITOs. It’s not an ‘old car with a new paint job’ but a world-class integrated vocational education system that learners and employers can engage with in their hundreds and thousands. If we can capture the hearts and minds of employers who currently don’t engage in training and convince them to get involved because it adds real value, then we are indeed on the right path.”
Warwick says he’s inspired by seeing successful outcomes, “There is nothing quite like being at a trade graduation ceremony and seeing someone awarded their qualification. Their faces beaming, the pride and excitement of their friends and whanau is heartwarming, and the satisfaction and pride of their employers is just as inspiring. Employers put their heart and soul into developing their apprentices and trainees, and without them, we couldn’t do what we do.”