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Source: New Zealand Government

The number of domestic students training at polytechnics and other training institutes fell by a staggering 23,190 between 2011 and 2017*, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said today.

“During the last six years National was in office, the skills shortage grew from a gap to a chasm,” Chris Hipkins said.

“Instead of supporting Institutes of Technologies and Polytechnics ((ITPs) in their core business of domestic skills training, National turned the financial screw year after year, forcing the ITPs to chase after and compete for international students.

“Financially, that’s been disastrous and, unfortunately for taxpayers, the chickens have come home to roost. Last year, the Government had to find $100 million to bail out four polytechnics. We know that several more are on borrowed time.

“It is a damning indictment of National’s total lack of vision and foresight.

“It’s not like they weren’t warned.

“The 2016 Briefing for then Incoming Minister for Tertiary Education Skills and Employment, Paul Goldsmith, clearly set out the challenges:

‘There are risks related to the prolonged reduction in learner demand for tertiary education. The financial and non-financial impacts of this are being felt around the system and are proving particularly challenging for the institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITP) sector. Similarly, the integral nature of international student business to TEOs exacerbates the impact of regular business cycle changes in this area.’ (p4)

“Still, nothing was done.

“And National’s claim of a defence of the impact of low unemployment on student numbers won’t wash. 

“Smart thinking means developing a model that moves away from the cycle that sees course delivery at institutes boom when the economic cycle turns down and then dive when the economy improves, while on-the-job training providers face the opposite cycle.

“That appeared to be beyond National, so it made our economy too reliant on buying skills through immigration. Immigration is vital, but it shifted the balance too far.

“Since the Coalition Government has been in power we’ve started to halt the decline in the number of students, through our fees free programme.

“We also announced changes to allow greater use of micro-credentials and different length courses to ensure our system is more accessible and responsive to business needs. 

“And we’re working closely with business and unions to prepare the workforce for a future, when, by some estimates, one third of jobs in New Zealand are likely to be significantly affected by automation. 

“That’s a million jobs, and again it is something National was not prepared for. 

“We’re getting on with fixing National’s sloppy handling. And we’ll have more to say very soon.

“In the meantime, Simon Bridges needs to explain to New Zealanders how the Government he was part of as a senior Minister got it so wrong,” Chris Hipkins said.