The civil construction industry says the Government’s proposed Reform of Vocational Education has potential to fix longstanding issues with vocational training and education, despite needing careful management and more recognition of on-job training.
Civil Contractors New Zealand chief executive Peter Silcock said while it was clear the vocational education system required major changes to remove duplication and increase efficiency in delivering job skills, the critical issue would be maintaining interest and engagement from employers and trainees while changes were brought in.
“Like many other industries, civil construction is experiencing a major skills shortage. We need well-trained people to work on New Zealand’s infrastructure, and it’s important the skills of these talented people are recognised through national qualifications.”
He said most civil construction companies run their own training programmes, enabling them to ensure training is timely, relevant and creates valuable skills and knowledge for employees and employers. While degrees and diplomas were important for civil engineers and surveyors, targeted training and qualification in specific job skills was needed, with relevant one or two day off-job courses the biggest gap for the civil construction industry.
Silcock said the proposed Industry Skills Bodies would be better equipped to support and address industry needs.
CCNZ and the civil construction industry had established a positive and productive relationship with the civil infrastructure Industry Training Organisation Connexis, creating a Civil Trades Apprenticeship scheme and reviewing civil infrastructure qualifications.
Despite the need for improvement, the major trade industry skills shortages meant it was vitally important any changes are implemented in a way that does not put off prospective apprentices and employers from beginning or completing qualifications, he said.
“There’s a lot of conjecture around the details of this proposal – details that are still being worked out. It’s understandable people involved in the vocational education sector are concerned about their positions, but it’s also important we keep things realistic and avoid scaremongering lest we undermine our vocational education pathways.”
Silcock said a review of the property and resources required for the proposed New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology was appropriate, considering the likely growth potential of on-job and online delivery.
While it was reasonable to expect employers to dedicate some financial resource to training, they should not be expected to pay to support large-scale bricks and mortar campuses they have little to no involvement with, he said.