Eastern Institute of Technology is pumping. 2019 sees an increase of 680 students up on last year’s record 10,325 people engaged in tertiary education through its three campuses in Hawke’s Bay, Tairāwhiti (Gisborne) and Auckland, across certificate, diploma, degree and post-graduate.
“Relationships with our communities are strong,” says Mark Oldershaw, EIT deputy chief executive.
Courses and programmes are constantly reviewed to meet learner and industry needs – the horticulture sector story featured on page 43 aptly demonstrates this. Students across all schools are successfully gaining employment or go on to further studies (2017: 75 percent in employment, 25 percent in study).
Then in mid-February this year, Minister of Education Chris Hipkins announced a Review of Vocational Education (ROVE) that put the institute into overdrive.
With only a six-week window to provide feedback on what Mark describes as “the most significant review of vocational education provision across New Zealand that we have ever seen. A once in a generation change”, intense activity ensued.
“While some of what the Minister has proposed is warranted, there is great risk that Hawke’s Bay will lose our regional autonomy to meet social and economic needs. EIT may no longer have the agility to respond with training to fill workforce skills gaps,” Mark says. “There was absolutely no question that we needed to respond with as much strategic and deep thinking as our collective intellect could provide.”
Within the first week, Mark and Chris Collins EIT Chief Executive had digested the ROVE proposal and marketplace intelligence around it. Overarching values were established – that any response, and the process to develop that response, would put people first and foremost. The focus being on the impact on the community and employers. Regional connectedness would be clearly demonstrated as crucial to EIT’s sustained success. “From the outset we utilised a principles- based approach. We were driven by the need to propose constructive feedback and solutions,” says Glen Harkness, EIT ROVE project manager.
Mark and Glen lead the project group. EIT’s executive team had ROVE steering group responsibilities added to their workloads. Extensive consultation with staff across all three campuses resulted in both academic and administrative staff volunteering to work on a number of workstreams, holding focus sessions to explore the proposal’s impact on EIT, what was supported, and where alternative ideas were needed.
The Wellington-based ROVE team spent a day in Hawke’s Bay meeting with staff, students, EIT Council and executive. An extremely well-supported stakeholders’ meeting was also held. Mayors or their representatives from Central Hawke’s Bay to Wairoa attended, expressing concerns about the region’s potential loss of direct input in determining how the tertiary institution could continue to respond to local education and training needs.
Initially one regional submission was planned. The region’s mayors, iwi and business leaders were all keen to vocalise their support for EIT. The resulting submission had 18 signatories from throughout East Cape and Hawke’s Bay.
“As time progressed it became apparent that one regional submission could not contain the level of detail that was coming out of the ideas from EIT,” said Glen. “The questions being asked in the consultation process required more comprehensive answers.
“It is such a critical issue that we needed to model with a finer level of detail how we could operate and connect with the community while still providing the Minister with the solutions he was seeking.”
In its second submission following further staff consultation and a solid level of agreement, the proposed EIT model sets out how strong regional governance and leadership can be preserved.
It promotes regional Boards to lead and govern tertiary education in their respective regions. Regional education and training delivery plans would be developed in consultation with local iwi, industry, community, students, region and the overarching central entity. Regional providers would deliver to the plans, giving a “real life, real learning fit for the real world”.
In addition, the EIT model has an overlay that demonstrates how industry and the Minister’s proposed industry skills boards would connect to the plan.
“We accept that some of what the Minister has stated as his reasons for the review are warranted but it’s critical that we present an alternative view. The tertiary vocational sector is not as broken as central Government makes out, certainly EIT is not struggling.
“We believe that despite the incredibly short timeframe, we’ve provided a much- improved model for stronger and better provider-based training,” sums up Mark.
“I am extremely proud that once again EIT has shown an amazing ability to pool together to contribute to a significant piece of work. I believe our submission reflects both our history and what defines us now, but also makes a very strong case for the values and principles we hold to be incorporated into a possible new model.”
Minister Hipkins indicated he wants the new entity that arises from the ROVE process to be in place on 1 January 2020. Work over the subsequent year or two will be needed to transition all 16 polytechnics and institutes of technology into the one new entity.
More information about ROVE and EIT’s submissions can be found at https://www. eit.ac.nz/about/reform-of-vocational- education/ – a page dedicated to sharing information on the review proposal and the EIT response.