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  • Tertiary overhaul bodes well for “healthy” Waikato engineering sector

    Feb 2019 -

    Cementing Waikato as New Zealand’s hub of engineering excellence should be a focus for the sector following news of a major tertiary training shake-up.

    All 16 New Zealand polytechnics will merge into a single entity under a massive overhaul of the sector proposed by Education Minister Chris Hipkins.

    Waikato Engineering Careers Association manager Mary Jensen said the region’s engineering sector is well placed to benefit from a proposed vocational education system overhaul.

    “Our sector already provides robust training from pre-employment to trade, diploma, technology and professional degrees across several co-ordinated educational platforms. This training is all informed by an association of employers which sets Waikato apart as a New Zealand Centre of Engineering Excellence. Our educational institutions work well together to achieve practical results for industry.

    “This organised and informed approach means we are now well placed to become a hub for students from other areas, specialising in engineering at every level. Cementing Waikato as New Zealand’s hub of engineering excellence is a next logical next step.”

    Mary said if handled well the education overhaul will result in better streamlining of courses and training, as well as making it a lot easier for students and whanau to navigate the skills and technology education sector and its plethora of courses.

    “The current interrupted funding model of trade training between ITOs and polytechnics, and limitations of the apprenticeship system, has been hindering skill training in institutions. This has not served the employer or aspiring young tradespeople well. This is a good chance to shake things up and do better,” she said.

    Crucial to the success of this major re-structure, however, is the right regional leadership group determining current and future sector skill needs and where current the gaps and duplication exist. In addition, increased employer connection into the skills pipeline is vital.

    “In some providers we have seen empires being built over the years, with top heavy management, duplication of courses, marketing and enrolment processes. If these are centralised, it will provide greater savings to taxpayers, students and hopefully ultimately result in more resource available for better consultation with businesses and more effective teaching and learning.”

    Technological skills are vital to the future needs of Waikato industries to maintain global competitiveness, and the overhaul gives the opportunity to implement change to some areas of vocational training not functioning well.

    Vocational training in Waikato is in “fairly good shape” compared with other New Zealand centres, with Wintec the one main institute serving the region and not subject to challenges caused by a low population base or too many competing institutions.

    In general, ITO representatives have been doing a “sterling job” of looking after apprentices and trainees in our region.

    There are strong links through project-based learning in secondary schools supplying the pipeline of engineers required to ensure that the Waikato’s lucrative export market, including the production and processing of primary products, is well supported. A closer affiliation with Waikato’s IT sector is also underway.“

    “A collaborative model informed by employers is needed in every industry sector in the Waikato to ensure the transition to sensible and relevant skills development and training is provided in the most efficient way,” Mary said.

    WECA representatives sit on the Waikato Regional Labour Market Strategy Group , Wintec’s Engineering Employer Engagement Group, University of Waikato’s Engineering Advisory Group and partner with FutureForce® Waikato Media Hub, showcasing real careers in the region.

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