Grant Davidson of Skills Active Aotearoa writes in the Herald:
Let me let you in on a secret. Last election I voted Grant Robertson and Labour. You see, I am one of the 30 per cent of voters who are not firmly aligned to any one party or ideology, but look at the merits of the policies on offer each election.
The promises that attracted me were open and transparent government and an investment focus that’s not just about financial returns, but also people, the environment and wellbeing. In light of those promises, the Government’s proposal to reform vocational education, and the way Education Minister Chris Hipkins is going about it, are shocking.
The open and transparent promise has become a sick joke.
First, after some initial information gathering by officials, we were told the minister was merging the vocational education review with a review of polytechs. That was in mid-December. Then no more news until the minister invited us to Parliament on February 13.
There he served up a single reform proposal to merge all 16 polytechs into a single mega-polytech, delete the well-performing industry training organisations and shift their 145,000 trainees and apprentices to this new mega-polytech. To cap it off, we got just six weeks to consult with our industries and provide feedback.
Sounds like a done deal to me.
As the proposal reflects the Minister’s wishes, it is hard to see it not occurring.
None of the papers given to us clearly define the problem this is trying to solve. There are no options considered. No detail of how it will work. No measures to judge the success of the solution. No costings either, and a careful review of Cabinet papers reveal Treasury is concerned because it hasn’t been able to carry out financial impact modelling.
We are told the current system is broken and that industry wants a better system. We asked for data on what is broken and which workplaces and industries were surveyed. Out of dozens of industries our sector serves, we find there were “conversations” with only 22 workplaces and these only represented three industries. The entire vocational education sector is being disrupted based on that sample, probably selected on the basis of known gripes.
Hardly a scientific sample.
We have a process that pushes a unilateral solution to an undefined problem and rushes this through so that it neglects fundamental rights such as Treaty obligations.
This is not democracy, and it is certainly not good business practice.
It is not open and transparent government.
It is not treating people well according to any definition of a living standards framework.
The minister said last week, “Those who are engaging constructively are really going to help shape the proposals that we’ve got.”
This reads like a veiled threat.
All of us are engaging with our stakeholders constructively in these proposed reforms.
It’s just that some of us have other ideas on how to create a better vocational educational future and those ideas are unpalatable to a blind ideology.
We want to hear from you as long as you agree with us.