Innovation in training – Opening Speech at the Primary ITO Symposium
- Hon Chris Hipkins
Kia ora koutou and Good Morning
Our primary sector has always been driven by innovation, sustainability and planning for future generations.
More than 200-years have passed since northern chief Te Pahi sent young men from his tribe to New South Wales to train as shepherds in what was then, a brand new industry.
Two centuries later, Kiwis are some of the best shearers in the world, workers learn on the job and as many of you will already know: we still need young New Zealanders skilled and qualified in wool harvesting.
And the fifty billion dollar Māori Economy, is once again at the cutting edge of industry innovation. From Tohu Wines in Nelson, Ngai Tahu’s Bluff Oysters to Manuka Honey on the East Coast.
To understand our primary sector is to understand the potential of New Zealanders:
Learning from the past.
Transforming the present.
Planning for the future.
The response to our recently announced vocational education reforms from your communities has been clear:
Your members are telling us that innovation and change has always driven our primary sector.
Planning for current and future generations is how you have always worked and how you will continue to work.
We’re hearing the messages from your members are telling us:
Yes. We agree the current system needs to change.
It has not always served the primary sector well.
And that changes to the vocational education system must reflect a partnership that is focused on:
- the pastoral care and educational needs of learners;
- delivering the highest quality vocational learning;
- and meeting the needs of your industry.
We agree. We know that this system must understand and encompass the whole of the primary sector. This is critical.
We know there is work to do to plan and implement these changes carefully. And we know your input and co-design is critical. This has started.
Our food and fibre sector encompasses agriculture to aquaculture, horticulture, apiculture, seafood and viticulture. The list goes on.
That old saying “If you ate today, thank a farmer” isn’t totally true.
If you ate today, you need to thank many people: the farmer’s family; the farm advisor; the agronomist; the fishers; the pickers; the environmental scientist; the shepherds; the shearers; the divers; the winemakers; the truck drivers; the top-dressing pilots; the share milkers; the vet; the apiarists; and the farm manager.
The list is long and changes frequently as the sector diversifies and technology advances.
With that comes challenges as we work together to design the new system. No two industries are the same, and we’ve heard, for example, the concerns of the Meat Industry Association, for whom a lot of the current system is working well.
We’ll build on current strengths, such as, for the Meat Industry, on-the-job training led by employers.
But while we preserve the best of what we have, we must do more to attract more talent into the sector.
At the heart of your sector are everyday New Zealanders who collectively create one fifth of our GDP, create 1 in 10 jobs and produce 75 per cent of our merchandise exports.
And yet 85 per cent of New Zealanders live in cities. Children in urban schools face logistical barriers when it comes to considering a career in the primary sector.
But they also face other, invisible barriers such as perceptions about working in the primary sector. We need to change these perceptions.
Right now we have a shortage of skilled workers across every region in New Zealand.
And yet, there are 30,000 fewer New Zealanders participating in on the job training, apprenticeships and traineeships, than there were ten years ago.
It is a development we cannot afford to ignore any longer: the future of work has been changing for years.
A study of a group of Kiwi 19-year-olds who left school in the early 2000s found that by the time they were 28, qualified apprentices had already earned $165,000 more than their mates who graduated with a BA, BCom or a BSC.
Because apprentices and trainees are paid to study they aren’t left with a five-figure student loan to pay off. And crucially, those teens who had opted for work-based training were already ahead as they were already working in the sector. The study predicted that by the end of their working lives, the value of assets owned by an apprentice compared to a university graduate, would be similar.
These are the messages we need to get out to students and their families, but importantly to teachers and educators.
Right now we know labour and skills shortages are threatening the productivity and profitability of our primary sector. The problem is not new but our response is.
We are unifying our vocational education into a system that works better for you, your learners, your members, your people.
Last week we announced the primary sector will be New Zealand’s first Centre of Vocational Excellence (COVE), to drive innovation and strengthen links between providers and industry.
Thank you for your supportive comments.
Our Primary Industry Centre of Vocational Excellence will be a consortium that includes education and industry experts and researchers, and will drive innovation and excellence in vocational teaching and learning within the primary sector. It will be hosted by a regional campus of the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology, or by a wānanga.
We want to see industry sharing learning technologies with providers to minimise cost and duplication. It could strengthen pathways into vocational education, including from school. The opportunities are great and we will work with you to help make them become a reality.
I plan to seek proposals before the end of the year to establish the centre and what functions it will include.
I also recently announced a funding boost for Telford Agricultural College in Balclutha.
It means more than 220 students in 2020 and 250 in 2021 can be taught at the Telford campus and further afield.
We are investing several million additional dollars to support these studies and training.
As well as core farming skills in agriculture, apiculture and wool technology, this will create opportunities within the forestry, engineering and construction industries which are vital to our ongoing economic success and productivity.
The geographical remoteness that makes rural communities unique is also one of the challenges.
The reality is that delivering education in rural areas is expensive because of remote locations and small classes.
The changes taking place are about building a more integrated vocational education system so learning can take place more seamlessly between on-the-job and off-the-job training, in distance or face-to-face learning. We want to ensure that whether people are in a lecture room in downtown Auckland or on a farm in rural Manawatū; the education standard is of the same high-standard.
And we want to make sure it is funded in a fair and equitable way. Right now it’s not, that is for sure
Unifying and sharing all our educational resources and making the most of technology will potentially make it easier for learners in rural communities to study a wider range of courses.
But as you know, the broadband infrastructure in Waihi isn’t the same as in Wellington. That’s why we all need to collaborate on solutions moving forward.
Rural depopulation and the exodus of school leavers to cities is something farming communities know all too well.
But with a strong, unified vocational education system, young people will increasingly see that the training needed for their career path often lies closer to home and not far away in a city studying for a qualification that may not guarantee them a job.
By 2022, our Workforce Development Councils will put industry in charge and give your sector greater control over vocational training and education, providing skills leadership across sectors.
Regional Skills Leadership Groups will be empowered by local communities to ensure their needs are met. We will ensure our reforms include iwi and Māori as key partners by setting up Te Taumata Aronui, the first Māori-Crown national tertiary education group of its kind.
I acknowledge that change can be unsettling. But the risks of inaction are even greater. We simply can’t continue to tolerate critical skills shortages and the very clear mismatch between what we need and what our education and training system has been able to deliver.
For the staff working in ITOs, I acknowledge in particular the uncertainty reform creates for you. I want to reiterate here again a statement I made at the announcement. An integrated approach to vocational education does not mean a shift from on-the-job training to more classroom based approaches. In fact it is highly likely to mean the opposite. Those working in ITOs who have experience supporting on-the-job learning will find their skills in hot demand.
When it comes to economic innovation, vocational training, environmental stewardship and succession planning, the people at the helm of our primary sector are already leading New Zealand and the world. Our job is to help you do what you do best.