“Keep training, keep taking on new trainees and leave the rest to us,” is the positive message delivered to print employers by PrintNZ general manager Ruth Cobb, following the recent announcement of major reforms to the vocational education and training sectors.

She emphasises that dealing with such a step change development for the trades training and polytechnic sectors makes, “a great example of why we exist as your industry association”.

“We will be working away hard in the background, establishing dialogue with the appropriate Government officials, and ensuring the voice of the print industry is properly heard in this huge change.

“This is our job; it is why we have an industry body. We want to put our employers at ease and assure them that we have their best interests at heart and encourage them to continue business and training as usual.”

That interaction started as early as the recent PrintNZ AGM and annual Management Advisory Group meeting with representatives from the regions and sectors of the industry.

She explains, “We had an official from the Ministry of Education in attendance at the meeting, along with Competenz personnel, so the group could hear directly from them about the planned first steps and the pathway they see the reforms taking.”

An overview of the key vocational, education and training reforms announced on August 1 by Education Minster Chris Hipkins includes:

•   The establishment by April 1, 2020 of a centralised New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology, which will bring together the 16 existing polytechnics

•   The creation of four to seven industry-governed Workforce Development Councils, by 2022, to give industry leadership over all aspects of vocational education and make the system more responsive to employers’ needs and to the changing world of work. These councils will replace and expand most of the existing roles of industry training organisations

•   Regional Skills Leadership Groups will be established to identify local skill needs and work across education, immigration and welfare systems to make sure the system is delivering them

•   Over the next two to three years, the role of supporting workplace learning will shift from the industry training organisations to training providers. Holding organisations will be formed to assist with a smooth transition

•   Centres of Vocational Excellence will be established at regional campuses to drive innovation and bring together expertise to improve the linkages between education, industry and research

•   The funding system will be simplified and apply to encourage greater integration of on the job and off the job learning for all certificate and diploma qualifications, and all industry training

•   A group will be established to ensure the reforms reflect the needs of Maori learners and reflects the government’s commitment to Maori-Crown partnerships

Cobb says PrintNZ, along with many of its members, put submissions to the Minister during the recent consultation period.

She says, “We wanted to ensure there was clear understanding of both the potential impacts of the proposed new system as well as appreciation of the uniqueness of the print sector and its training requirements.

“What is positive in the Minister’s announcement is we and the industry training organisations have been given some time to transition through to the Workforce Development Councils framework; basically three years rather than the initial January 1, 2020 deadline.

“The New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology will be developed by April 1 next year, so there will also be time for that to bed in before the next step takes place.

“Inside of that bubble, we have an immediate role to make sure the print voice is heard. If at all possible, we need to have representation on the Councils and other bodies being established to ensure that the relevant people understand the uniqueness of print and the way that our training needs to take place.

“It is not a one size fits all answer. I guess we also have concerns that the balance of industry versus academia is appropriate in terms of who is running the Institute of Skills and Technology, who is on the councils and how they are managed.”

Although noting the vocational, education and training reform documentation released to date is somewhat light on detail, with further refinement expected over the next six months, Cobb says some early assumptions are being tentatively made.

She says, “It looks like the councils will follow the vocational pathways and it would make logical sense if we fitted into the existing manufacturing segment. My guess is the industry training organisations will strive to morph their intellectual property into these Councils but there is a key function that they cannot perform, which is the on the job mentoring.

“So if there is an opportunity in this reform for PrintNZ and its members, it may be to have a better connection between those different sets of people and work more closely with the trainees. We are in the best position to know what the industry requires and to make sure it is being delivered.”

While lamenting that the huge government bailout of the system cited by Minister Hipkins as a key driver for reform was an issue relating to polytechs and not industry training organisations, such as Competenz, Cobb says change has nonetheless been decided.

She says, “To our members, rest assured we will not be sitting back and waiting for 2022 to roll around. PrintNZ will be actively involved in the reform process, seeking to ensure that the training requirements for our industry are not diluted in any way.

“We want to ensure the best possible outcomes. We will be working with such organisations as Competenz, Business New Zealand, the Manufacturers Network and other industry bodies with a similar structure to apply influence where we can, and potentially secure an ongoing direct involvement in the delivery of training to our industry.

“In the meantime, we again implore you to go about your business as usual. You should not be putting on hold any decisions to train. All existing training commitments will continue uninterrupted as the transition unfolds over the next three years.”


In a recent newsletter, Fiona Kingsford, chief executive at Competenz, expressed similar sentiments and specifically noted:

•   In the short-to-medium term, nothing will change. Competenz will continue as normal in its role of supporting all schools, gateway students, apprentices and trainees

•   Competenz will be a transition organisation maintained to support existing and new trainees and apprentices through to the end of 2022

•   To assist with additional questions, the Competenz has collated a schools-specific Question and Answer document, which you can find at this address: <https://www.competenz.org.nz/assets/Uploads/Rove-Schools-Q-and-As-020819-FINAL.pdf>

Kingsford added, “We will be sending regular updates as more information becomes available and the Competenz careers team will also be available for any questions and to provide regular updates.

“As discussed above, our schools-specific Question and Answer document may help with any initial questions. This dedicated webpage <https://www.competenz.org.nz/reform-of-vocational-education/> will also be regularly updated, and you are welcome to send any questions to VET@competenz.org.nz

She added, “We appreciate your support and patience during this time.”

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