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Update from ITPNZ

Paul Matthews. 17 January 2020, 4:46 pm
Update from ITPNZ

Here's a quick weekly update from ITP CEO Paul Matthews

WDC announcement ignores tech sector needs

Please note that this is an update for the ITPNZ community and is explicitly not authorised for further public distribution. We will be making public statements in relation to WDCs and the review following further meetings with TEC next week.

If you read Techblog regularly you'll be aware that there is currently a big review happening in the polytech sector. Part of this is determining how industries will create qualifications and educational standards, via industry-run Workforce Development Councils (WDCs). 

This review is actually a significant opportunity for our industry, but only if it's done right. It's also a significant risk: a third of the degree graduates who enter our industry come through a polytech pathway. While the review is at the sub-degree level, any changes there will have a dramatic impact on the future of tech degrees too.

An announcement was made a couple of days before Christmas about the makeup of WDCs and frankly it really doesn't look good for tech.

Our sector has been advocating very heavily for either IT/digital tech as a standalone WDC, or IT and Engineering as a joint one. Engineering has many of the same structures and challenges as IT, and it makes perfect sense to look after both under one umbrella. We both have very distinct needs that are different from many other industries and if Government is serious about supporting our industry growth, then they need to get this right.

Our industry spoke with one voice, with the heads of the three main tech industry bodies signing a proposal to establish a WDC in a way that would benefit our industry. This was also signed by the head of CITRENZ, the group of heads of computing schools in all polytechnics who offer IT-related qualifications, following a unanimous vote supporting an IT WDC at their last heads of school meeting.

So WDCs were established to serve their industries. Our industry spoke with one voice and outlined what would work for us and why. But instead, our industry's concerns have been ignored and IT has been bundled into a WDC including:

Manufacturing and processing, extractives and drilling, transport (including heavy and commercial), postal, warehousing, engineering, and information and communications technology (development and systems engineering) industries

So the group setting qualifications and standards for IT / digital technologies will be the same group that looks after drilling, truck drivers, warehousing, postal workers, aviation, dairy processing, seafood processing and more.

Frankly, that's ridiculous.

We are seriously concerned about the impact this decision will have on our industry; for example, the number of degree graduates entering tech. We don't have enough now, and around a third of all degree graduates entering IT come through a polytechnic pathway. This has hardly been considered as part of the review, but an IT and Engineering WDC can support this pathway in a way that a random bunch of industries bundled together can't.

Our educational pathway is also in a unique position in that digital technologies has just this year become a compulsory component of the school curriculum. This will have a dramatic impact on the future tertiary educational needs for tech that needs careful consideration and management.

An IT (or IT/Engineering) WDC would directly impact the skill needs identified in the Industry Transformation Plan being devised currently. It can also help with the tech skills needed by all other industries - essential as we traverse the future of work amidst further digital disruption. But no, instead the model has us sitting alongside fish processing and heavy transport. No offence to those industries, but there is simply no commonality.

And finally, this isn't just sour grapes because we didn't get our own way. Either way, we'll be involved. This is born of genuine concern about the future of vocational tech education under the proposed model and concern about the process that led to it.

We're meeting with TEC next week to discuss these concerns further and try to get to some form of resolution. I genuinely believe TEC and the Ministry are trying to plot a good and future-focused path forward with WDCs, which is why we haven't made public statements about it as yet. However, this is too important to not at least inform our community of our concerns.

Stay tuned - you'll be hearing a lot more on this one.


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