PrintNZ has expressed concern over the government’s proposed revamp of the vocational education and training sector.

While applauding the Government’s intent to encourage greater numbers into training and reform the polytechnic sector as part of the process, PrintNZ general manager Ruth Cobb says this process should not come at the detriment of industry training organisations (ITOs).

She says, “The key measures laid out in the proposal will in fact likely worsen the skill shortages faced by such key sectors as the print industry.

“Eliminating the vital roles currently played by ITOs and instead attempting to replicate all of their skills, knowledge and experience into one body would be a radical change to the current training structure. That would bring huge uncertainty to our and other industries, and history has proven such disruption in turn causes a slow-down of businesses that are willing to commit to training individuals.

“At a time when it is critical that we attract skilled people to our industry and can demonstrate a career path for them, any such disruption to this flow would have a significant and multiplying effect over the years.”

Currently employing almost 12,000 people and providing almost $900m in GDP annually, the print sector requires about 450 new workers each year, 85 per cent of whom need to be skilled, to meet its predicted workforce requirements, according to economics consultancy, Infometrics.

Cobb says PrintNZ and Competenz provide programmes that continue to successfully deliver these workers with skills specifically tailored to the specific and evolving needs of the sector. She says, “The printing industry continues to go through rapid technological advancement and it is important that training programmes reflect these advances and adapt accordingly.

“We see the government’s proposal as potentially stifling the ability of training providers to be flexible and adaptive, which would quickly see training programmes become irrelevant and abandoned.”

As well as having grave concerns about the capability of the polytechnic sector to understand an industry it has not dealt with for over 20 years, Cobb says the identity and voice of individual industries would be lost in a ubiquitous training body. She says, “With the proposed New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology catering to hundreds of different industries, niche sectors such as ours would face a huge struggle to retain the capability of influencing outcomes that are particular to print. This could result in a disconnect between what industry needs and what is delivered.

“As well as very much being a niche industry, print is also capital and equipment intensive, continues to experience rapid technological change and encompasses a wide variety and types of printing. Because of this, a successful learning environment cannot be created anywhere other than in a workplace and any suggestion of centralising such specific learnings would be detrimental.

“Our employers rely on trainees being productive members of staff from the get-go and if there is any change to the delivery of industry training requiring periods of time out of the workplace, then this would again have a negative impact on employers’ willingness to train.

“The proposal could potentially increase costs of training and doesn’t recognise that employers already contribute substantial financial resources to the training of apprentices.”

She adds that the current government vocational education reform proposal would potentially decimate in house training; does not consider the realities of training for specific sectors, could worsen skills shortages and ultimately does nothing to encourage either individuals or businesses to engage in training.

For further information please email PrintNZ general manager Ruth Cobb at or phone 027 248 9404.

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