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Education Review doesn’t recognise software, digital, agritech, or other tech industries

Paul Matthews, ITP Chief Executive. 10 July 2020, 3:25 pm
Education Review doesn’t recognise software, digital, agritech, or other tech industries

You will have noticed we've been banging on about the big Review of Vocational Education and specifically, the industry-focused Workforce Development Councils part of it.

The WDCs are 6 quasi-bureaucracies that were originally intended to be industry-led, however now are defined, funded and essentially operated by Govt officials. We have a number of big concerns about these, amongst them the fact that they're focused from the ground up on being backwards-looking rather than forwards-looking.

So what do we mean by that?


We've been pushing hard to have at least one WDC that's focused on the future of work; for example, helping all other areas work through the impact of technology on their industries and the resultant training and education needs. Instead, we have a WDC model with tech alongside hairdressing, beauty services, sports and recreation and other priorities from our industry have been ignored.

As discussed at one point during the ITP webinar last night, govt officials are by and large very well meaning and we don't intend to say for a second that they aren't. But in this case they simply don't understand the reality of modern industries. An example is their choice to use outdated ANZSIC Codes to try to group "industries".

Let's take a look at the WDC Industry Finder Tool, released by the Tertiary Education Commission. This tool is set up to look at the industry definitions they've used and determine the WDC industries are assigned to.

So let's check it out:

  • Digital - sorry, no such industry. Oh.
  • Software - nope. Well, other than "Publishing" in a media or telecomms perspective
  • Agritech - nope.
  • Games, Biotech, Healthtech? Nope.
  • Information Technology - yes, hooray. But it redirects to "Computer System Design and Related Services" - the definition TEC are using to group our industry. 

Interestingly, the tool has been updated since yesterday's webinar and at least "Computer System Design" points to the right WDC now.

So what's wrong with ANZSIC codes? Well for starters, they haven't been updated since 2006. Yup, 14 years ago - before Facebook was a thing and digital technologies as we know them today were but a pipe dream. The iPhone was but a twinkle in Steve Jobs' eye in 2006, and the world is now a very different place.

So to be clear, the framework on which the future of vocational education is being built in New Zealand is based on the 2006 view of the world.

In 2006 it might have made sense to bundle tech and hairdressing together, but certainly not now. Maybe. Ok, perhaps even a stretch back then but definitely not now.

Not having a full industry understanding normally doesn't matter in a Government analysis or policy perspective - provided the bureaucrats listen to the industries giving them advice about their own industries. But in this case, they've chosen not to do so when the tech sector presented a united view on this stuff.

I should point out; our intention is not to embarrass the officials about this - they're doing their best in a tough situation. So then, why are we putting our neck out on this issue?

It's because this is bloody important stuff. We're talking about a once-in-a-generation change to the future of education, and the outlook from the ground up is fixed in seriously old thinking and that's going to impact the outcome very badly indeed.

There's a massive opportunity with this review but there's now a very real chance we won't just waste the opportunity, but will end up in a worse place than we started from - after spending hundreds of millions of dollars to get there.

This has to stop.

We're calling on Education Minister Hon Chris Hipkins to step in and sort it. It's not too late and a few small changes to industry groupings now will make a huge difference later - not just for our industry, but for the future of vocational education across all of NZ.


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