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Hawke’s Bay leaders join forces to keep EIT nimble to local needs

March 26, 2019

Sandra Hazlehurst, Rex Graham, Alex Walker, Mark Oldershaw, Bill Dalton and Craig Little have all signed a submission to try to keep EIT’s regional autonomy. Photo HB Today / Paul Taylor

All the region’s local body leaders have joined together to lobby the Government to ensure that Eastern Institute of Technology remains nimble to meet the skills needs of local employers.

Under the Government’s Review of Vocation Education (ROVE) proposal all 16 of the country’s polytechnics and institutes of technology will be incorporated into one national skills and training entity.

In the joint submission, the five mayors across Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne plus the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council chairman, say they welcome the Government’s recognition that business, industry, iwi and local government need to play an active role in driving the skills development and social outcomes for their communities.

They do, however, have concerns that a highly centralised decision-making entity will not enable the kind of responsiveness needed. “The region’s stakeholders need to be directly involved in co-designing solutions that work for our people rather than having models imposed on us” the submission states.

The leaders believe the proposed new structure needs to support what the region is already doing well, makes sure the transition is well-managed, and that the changes deliver better outcomes for the people of Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti.

EIT was a trusted partner, deeply integrated into the various regional development strategies in place for Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti, the submission states. The institute had created new school-industry partnerships, promoted sustainable value-added horticulture and a cutting-edge apiculture sector, strengthened the tourism workforce and local skill development.

Hastings Mayor, Sandra Hazlehurst believes that the region’s buoyant economy needs a skilled workforce “to maximise every opportunity that comes our way”.

“EIT has been flexible and nimble over years to adjust to our community’s needs, and it must retain that autonomy. Our region’s institute has very strong relationships with the business sector, which provides our young people pathways to employment through their training.”

She cited the creation of a Hastings campus set up last year in response to transportation issues for Hastings-based learners.

“We had a problem and EIT came up with the solution – and the campus is almost too small already and it’s only one year. The demand is definitely there.”

Stephen Hensman, chairman of the Hawke’s Bay Secondary Schools’ Principals’ Association and principal of Taradale High School, echoes this call for responsiveness.

“EIT remaining responsive must be first and foremost. It’s important that EIT going forward remains as responsive as it is now.”

Hensman said the success that EIT had shown with its Trades Academy was a case in point. The Academy takes Year 12 and 13 students for work experience in various trades one or two days a week for the full school year.

“This is successful because of EIT staff willingness and ability to constantly review and continually improve what is offered in response to what students and employers need.

“We have more students going on to tertiary study at EIT than any other tertiary study,” he added.

Alex Walker, Mayor of Central Hawke’s Bay says that for the reforms to be effective it was imperative that regions could “shape their own destiny”.

The Government was making significant investments in Hawke’s Bay that aim to strengthen the region’s transport infrastructure, grow priority and high-value industries, and connect people with work, particularly young people not in education, employment or training, she said.

“In Central Hawke’s Bay we have a high proportion of these young people and we need access to EIT’s ear to ensure we can collaborate on how best to train them into the skilled workforce that’s required to capitalise on the Government’s investment.”

The joint submission also notes that within the ROVE proposal there is a commitment to locate the centralised functions of the new system in one or more of the regions.

In response, the Hawke’s Bay leaders state that the Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti regions had the appropriate capabilities to host one or more of these functions. They are looking forward to discussing how they can support the success of the new entity with Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins.

Submissions to the proposal were due by 27 March but the deadline has been extended until 5 April as a consequence of the recent terror attack and the need for ministerial input in related matters.

Members of the public can also make submissions in a variety of ways. More information can be found on www.eit.co.nz/about/reform-of-vocational-education/