With a final visit scheduled with MIT and UNITEC at the end of November, Te Pūkenga Chair Murray Strong and Chief Executive Stephen Town have all but completed their subsidiary visits for the year.
“We will be back in the New Year,” is the promise already being made by both Murray and Stephen when asked about their next roadshow visits.
Te Pūkenga Chair Murray Strong and CE Stephen Town planned this roadshow visit series back in July. After working around COVID-19 lockdowns and health and hygiene considerations, the original two-month schedule will now be completed in five.
“It’s certainly taken us longer then we hoped, but it’s been an incredibly worthwhile visit programme, and we are committed to getting back out and around the country to check in with staff and learners as soon as we are able in early 2021,” says Stephen.
On Monday 9 November, Murray and Stephen were able to visit NorthTec in Whangarei, scheduled initially as one of the very first.
The Te Pūkenga team was welcomed with a pōwhiri on Te Puna o Te Mātauranga marae, on the Raumanga campus. They took part in the blessing of a new campus-based whānau room, developed for social services students and their families. They enjoyed a lunch prepared and served by NorthTec’s hospitality students and then spent time visiting learners at the Future Trades campus. They also spent time with Northtec’s Board and hosted a well-attended staff Q&A session.
“We know vocational education and training is really important to the people of Te Tai Tokerau. It’s important we can visit and help explain how the transformation of the system is going to support their aspirations,” says Stephen.
NorthTec staff had a range of questions to ask of Stephen and Murray. But before they could ask, Stephen was keen to offer his insight into the types of answers he anticipated staff were eager to hear:
When will I see any change?
“There is a lot of work happening behind the scenes at the moment to prepare for the co-design and consultation process for the operating model. In the first half of 2021, we’ll be consulting with a wide range of partners and stakeholders to help us with this process. By mid-2021, we will need to confirm our future operating model, and then we will begin to implement the change required to transform the system. So, by mid-2021 onwards, you will start to see changes being made across the sector. But until we co-design and consult broadly on just what our future operating model will be, I can’t determine what those changes might look like.”
What does the transition of ITOs look like?
“There are 140,000 trainees and 35,000 employers in the ITO system. Our primary focus is to ensure we can find a way to transfer those learners and employers into a unified system as seamlessly as possible. Our first principle is “do no harm” – or don’t muck anything up! We are working closely with the Transitional ITOs to find a practical and pragmatic way that they can transfer their arranging training function across to Te Pūkenga. In collaboration with the Transitional ITOs and with agreement from the TEC, we have developed two options – either a partnership agreement or a letter of intent/transfer of assets. We are discussing the two options with Transitional ITOs and anticipate there will be three who will transition across to Te Pūkenga as soon as possible in 2021. I also expect several other Transitional ITOs will take the opportunity to transition across in 2021 too. The thing that connects transitional ITOs and subsidiaries is an overriding passion for doing great things for learners. I’m confident that any transfer of learners, employees, employers or assets from the Transitional ITO system will occur smoothly because we are united in our focus.”
What’s going to happen to our capital assets?
“We have about 90 different campuses and learning spaces across the subsidiary network. That’s a big national footprint. We’ve got a capital asset management strategy being prepared now – so we have a central understanding of exactly what we have, where they are, and importantly what condition are they in. Decisions around what we’ll need to do with our assets will be linked to our operating model, as we’ll need to ensure what we have now or what we need in the future is fit-for-purpose. Those decisions will need to be made centrally, but with a view to ensuring they met regional requirements. Having visited most of our subsidiaries now, I also recognised that some infrastructure is in better condition than others. There will need to be repairs and upgrades made.”
How is Te Pūkenga going to achieve outcomes for Māori learners?
“Our focus is on achieving equity for our Māori learners, which I consider to be more aspirational than merely improving outcomes. We are on a journey. I know there are pockets of excellence across the network, and I consider that my role is to ensure all our people understand not only how important our equity goal is, but why it’s important too. We have one chance to reset our relationship with Iwi Māori as we set about reimagining vocational education. We can not and will not muck it up.”
How will staff be included in the transformation?
“Designing our future operating model is a big and important job and one that we have to do together. There will be opportunities for staff, learners, partners, Transitional ITOs and stakeholders to play a part in the design. To meet our legislated timeframes, much of the co-design process will happen in early 2021, and we’ll run an extensive nationwide consultation process to support our final decision making too.”
Will we lose our regional identity?
“I know that each subsidiary has worked hard to develop its regional footprint, reputation and identity, and often have a strong connection with their local communities too. Transitional ITOs also have a strong brand presence that we must take into account. We are working on a co-branding process now. It’s something we’ll need to offer to the network to consider. Te Pūkenga would play a supporting role in any change in identity or branding that subsidiaries would like to consider in the next couple of years. Longer-term, the future operating model will provide the answers to many of the identity type answers we all have, I think. How we, as a unified network, will be configured in the future will play a significant role in determining our national identity.”
Both Stephen and Murray were able to answer a range of additional questions from staff, who seemed genuinely happy the had the chance to ask anything they felt needed an answer.
“It’s been great to have the chance to connect face to face with staff and learners over the past few months. After a tough year, it’s been great to see so much energy and enthusiasm. I feel positive about 2021. I genuinely think we’re going to be able to mobilise and come together right across the motu to reimagine the system in a way that will make a real once-in-a-generation difference,” says Stephen.
With the mahi around our operating model starting to ramp up, and changes to the network likely to begin to take shape by mid-2021, Stephen and Murray both recognise the importance of keeping closely connected to staff and learners.
“These visits have been critical for me to gain an up-close understanding of each region’s uniqueness, the needs and wants, and most importantly their expectations from Te Pūkenga. I hope those staff and learners we’ve had the pleasure of meeting during our visits have also enjoyed being able to talk with us and to be listened to as well,” says Stephen.
“We will be back!”
Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, te toa taki tini.
My strength is not mine alone, but that of the collective.