The Government is closing down apprentice training organisations due to a ‘financial crisis’, but reports show there was a significant underspend in the last tertiary budget due to its failed fees-free scheme, National’s Tertiary spokesperson Shane Reti says.
“This Government’s wasteful spending on poor policies has meant it allocated money for its fees free scheme money, but because the policy failed and there wasn’t enough uptake, there was a significant underspend in the budget.
“This is because most students at university were always going to attend, and there have been 2400 fewer students enrolling in tertiary education and training than a year ago.
“This $175 million underspend would have been better spent in growing apprenticeships, supporting trades training and increasing the quality of tertiary education.
“The Government has used polytech bailouts as an excuse to amalgamate all polytechnics into one and closing down apprentice training organisations. But the money was there, it was just being spent on the wrong things.
“Apprentice training industry organisations will be rightly furious they are being closed down because of a Labour Party election promise that has failed spectacularly.
“If the Government had got its priorities right in the education sector in the first place, it wouldn’t find itself in the mess it’s in now, with ongoing teacher strikes, fewer students enrolling tertiary education, and significant opposition to Mr Hipkins’ tertiary education reforms.
“With such a big underspend the Minister needs to rethink his ill-thought out policy before Kiwis are forced to waste billions of more dollars on extending fees-free to years two and three.”
A recent survey of Canterbury University students condemns the Labour-led Government’s fees free policy, National’s spokesperson for Tertiary Education Shane Reti says.
“Only six per cent of students surveyed said the Government’s policy was critical to them enrolling, but these students were also more likely to drop out of the courses they were enrolled in and achieve lower grades,” Dr Reti says.
“The very expensive fees free policy has had no impact at all. Most students at university were always going to attend, and the Minister’s own numbers show there are 2400 fewer students in tertiary education and training than a year ago.
“Taxpayers are forking out $2.8 billion for six per cent of students who may not complete their studies. This is simply going backwards.
“With the Government gearing up to extend the policy to include second and third year student, this is not good value for taxpayer’s money and it’s time to admit failure.
“The fees free policy has done nothing but reduce the number of students studying and increase the number having a holiday courtesy of the taxpayer. Rather than overpromising, the Government should be spending this money in education areas where it is really needed.
“Confirmation of wasted tertiary spending is discouraging in the current climate of the Government’s tertiary reforms. St John has said they will lose funds to provide emergency rural ambulance services, employers are telling us they will not rehire apprentices, and the Minister has confirmed there will be significant job losses.
“Mr Hipkins needs to immediately reconsider his ill-thought out bribe before Kiwis spend billions more on years two and three. National will release an education policy document later this year on how we will support learners across the sector with a better, higher quality education experience.”
The Office of the Auditor-General yesterday released a damaging submission on the Government’s plans to dissolve regional polytechnics and merge them into one central body, National’s spokesperson for Tertiary Education Shane Reti says.
“The Auditor-General submits that ‘there is not enough detail in the proposals to assess whether significant structural change will improve the financial sustainability and governance of the ITP sector’,” Dr Reti says.
“This is a damning statement on reforms that Education Minister Chris Hipkins revealed on Sunday could cause ‘significant job losses’. National predicted in February that 1000 jobs would be lost.
“The Auditor-General also notes the risk that there could be a loss of knowledge if staff leave or lose their jobs.
“The submission also highlights concerns with the proposed January 1 timeframe and notes significant transition risks.
“The consultation period was disrespectfully short, and has seen revolt from employers and successfully embedded polytechnics, such as in Invercargill.
“The Auditor-General is an independent entity with oversight for the wise use of Government funds and Government assets. I strongly encourage the Minister to take heed of their submission.
If this is good for the country then the Government should delay the reforms, put it on the election card in 2020 and see what New Zealanders think.”
A link to the submission on the Reform of Vocational Education proposals by the Office of the Auditor-General can be found here.
The week after St John held its annual appeal and called on the Government to fully fund the organisation, it’s ironic that it’s the Government who may end up axing funding for St John volunteers and placing its rural ambulance service at risk, National’s Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment spokesperson Shane Reti says.
“St John receives $1 million a year from the Industry Training Fund, which also funds Industry Training Organisations. The Industry Training Fund is at risk under the Government’s Reform of Vocational Education,” Dr Reti says.
“This $1 million is used to train rural and remote volunteers. St John is very concerned this funding will end under the tertiary education reforms.
“Remote and rural New Zealand relies heavily on the goodwill of volunteers, but this is at risk if St John cannot train volunteers.
“The Government’s tertiary education reforms will now reach even further into the rural sector by removing rural volunteer training. The Government is sending a bad signal for volunteering, a bad signal for the rural sector, and a bad signal for health in the regions.
“While the Government has spent many months consulting with polytechs, it has only dedicated a miserable seven weeks to consult with Industry Training Organisations and Private Training Establishments.
“National supports volunteers and the rural sector. The Government must ensure rural volunteer emergency services are maintained.”
Hikurangi Primary School is the latest Northland school to raise funds to buy meningitis vaccines, meaning their 5-12 year olds will finally get the vaccinations they require, MP for Whangarei Dr Shane Reti says.
“It’s especially poignant for the school as 7 year old student Alexis Albert tragically died from meningitis last year.
“The Government is claiming there is no money to vaccinate Northland children aged 5-12, yet last year Winston Peters gave $10m for a vaccination program in Papua New Guinea and $1m for a meningitis vaccination program in Fiji.
“Last month Health Minister David Clark said there have been no new meningitis cases in Northland since we started vaccinating, but he has since been proved wrong with the first new case of meningitis W diagnosed in Northland last week.
“I want to acknowledge Hikurangi Primary School, Whangarei Rotary and the local community for fundraising to protect these children. I look forward to visiting the school and administering the vaccinations myself.
“Whilst it’s immensely pleasing to see the vaccinations for 5-12 year olds going ahead, it should have been funded by the Government from the start and local communities cannot afford to be covering the Governments shortfalls.
“I call on the Government to announce a full meningitis vaccination program for all Northland children under 20 in next month’s Budget.”
The likelihood of fewer apprentices is just one of the reasons Education Minister Chris Hipkins should extend consultation on the vocational education reforms, National’s Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Spokesperson Shane Reti says.
Dr Reti has been visiting Polytechnics and today was in Invercargill visiting the Southern Institute of Technology and in Christchurch visiting the Ara Institute of Canterbury.
“A Skills survey of the wider sector shows that if these reforms progress then employers are 67 per cent less likely to employ an apprentice. Mr Hipkins is moving too far and too fast for the sector, and risks deepening the very problem he is trying to solve.
“Under these reforms there will be fewer apprentices, which could end up drastically increasing the costs of household services. Master Electricians New Zealand estimates Kiwis could end up paying 65 per cent more for an electrician due to labour shortages and added bureaucracy. With the New Zealand economy slowing and a gloomy global economic outlook, now is not the time to be imposing additional costs onto households and businesses.
“It is clear there hasn’t been enough time to think this through properly. I agreed with the Minister’s decision to extend the consultation by one week due to the Christchurch attacks. Now he should take this time to pause and consider the full impact of his proposed reforms.
“There is no need to rush this and the National Party can help with constructive policies. I challenge the Minister to immediately commit to extending his 1 January 2020 deadline for implementing these reforms and give industry, educators and students the chance to have a real say on the future of vocational education in New Zealand.”
Consultation on trades training reforms shows a lack of respect to our communities, National’s Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Spokesperson Shane Reti says.
“The Government has already decided what will happen at the conclusion of the short six week consultation period. The Tomorrow’s Schools consultation is nearly three times longer,” Dr Reti says.
“Already the consultation time is ticking away and yet the face to face community engagement dates are still to be announced, the online survey is not up and the telephone response line is only answering Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm when apprentices are working.
“With 1000 jobs on the line and massive upheaval, at least the Minister could show some respect to the industry. I challenge Education Minister Chris Hipkins to fix this and extend the consultation period by a further six weeks.
“Clearly Mr Hipkins has become encouraged by micro credentials and he now thinks micro consultation is also a good idea. It is not.”
The Government’s proposed reform of vocational education will strip power from regional New Zealand and hand all of it to Wellington bureaucrats, National’s Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment spokesperson Shane Reti says.
“Businesses and the regions know what demand there is for skills in their own backyard. But this Government wants all of the decision making to be done by a centralised body in Wellington,” Dr Reti says.
“Industry Training Organisations, which represent businesses and their needs will be disestablished. These are the groups that know and understand the demand for the trades better than anyone else.
“We believe that there is a need to address issues of quality, sustainability and more skilled people in trades but the idea that all this can be solved in Wellington is naive.
“The reforms are much bigger than we first anticipated and could lead to mass job losses, yet Education Minister Chris Hipkins said today he hasn’t done any work on that. It’s clear there are many unanswered questions.
“Given how much uncertainty there is, there should be a thorough consultation period. Instead, there will be just six week for industry to have its say. Mr Hipkins wants this in place next year which means rapid upheaval for the sector.
“The discussion document was strangely silent about the future of Private Training Establishments and Wānanga. These institutions deserve certainty about their futures.
“I encourage Mr Hipkins to put his ideology aside and extend the consultation period so the people who understand their own industries and communities can be involved in the process.”
The Government’s polytechnic sector review next week will involve consolidation and centralisation of regional polytechnics and job losses, National’s spokesperson for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Shane Reti says.
A number of senior industry sources have told Dr Reti the proposed changes from the review will include centralising many of the functions currently undertaken by polytechnics and many of the polytechnics will be forced to amalgamate into regional hub type structures
“Amalgamation and centralisation on a national scale will reduce education and training opportunities in the regions.
“We understand and agree that some sector reform is necessary for the polytechnics that struggle and we indicated that several years ago with the partial amalgamation of Whitireia and WelTec.
“A few polytechnic functions may be suitable for centralisation and the benefits that would bring, however a number of polytechnics are high performing and fiscally sound, and mass amalgamation and centralisation will diminish their good work and effectiveness.
“We understand that 1000 FTEs are at risk with the restructure and that their functions will be performed centrally. Many student services simply have to be conducted face to face and are unsuitable for centralisation.
“As well as teaching students, polytech teachers add to the overall skills capacity that a region has with many of them also carrying their skill set into voluntary organisations. Under mass amalgamation and centralisation these skills could not only be lost to the community, but also lost to the regions.
“Targeted support for struggling polytechnics and targeted centralisation of functions is a better solution than mass amalgamation and mass centralisation.
“This Government is showing us that the devil is not in the detail. Instead, the devil is in the big ticket items that we are hearing about, and the dread is in the detail.”
An open letter in the Northern Advocate today urges the Prime Minister to vaccinate the 20,000 Northland children who are currently ineligible for the Meningitis vaccine, Shane Reti, MP for Whangarei says.
“The cost to vaccinate all 20,000 ineligible children in Northland between 5-12 years of age is around $700,000. That’s the same cost as creating 35 metres of new road, or less than half a rugby field,” Dr Reti says.
“Hundreds of people have signed the petition started by Northland MP Matt King and I asking for the ineligible children to be included in the meningitis vaccine campaign.
“Many parents with ineligible children have contacted me who are desperate to have them vaccinated but they cannot afford the private cost of $110.
“I was also contacted by a parent who had one child who was eligible for the Meningitis vaccine and one child who was not. She said she could not choose which of her children could have a safer life and which child would not - so she vaccinated neither.
“This is a terrible position for parents to be in. The Government is choosing which children may be safe from Meningitis and which may not. It has argued there are not enough vaccines and that the expert group on the response didn’t recommend vaccinating 5-12 year olds. This is simply not true.
“As a GP, I can order dozens of vaccines right now and the expert group did suggest the option of vaccinating all Northland children under 20 years of age.
“The Prime Minister is in Northland and should front up to parents and explain why her Government has decided that their children will miss out on the Meningitis vaccine. Meningitis doesn’t ask their age.”
The open letter to the Prime Minister in the Northern Advocate today is available here.