Reimagining our current vocational education and training system so that it meets the unique needs of all learners won’t be possible unless we understand what those unique needs are.
Te Pūkenga is committed to putting learners at the very centre of how we design, implement and then deliver the future of vocational education and training.
Alongside the national research we are doing with our Ākonga at the Centre project, we are also in the early stages of establishing a Te Pūkenga Learners’ Committee. The Learners’ Committee, which will be a national body, will be established alongside our Staff Committee and our Māori Advisory Committee. There will be a representative from each national committee who will sit on the Te Pūkenga National Council. This will help ensure these important voices can talk, listen and engage at a governance level.
A few months back, representatives from 14 student associations and councils, providers and learner groups participated in a series of workshops hosted by Te Pūkenga to start the co-design process to establish a national learner committee. The committee needs to be elected in a fair and transparent way, and must represent the diversity and uniqueness of learners.
The mechanisms that already exist within current student associations hold significant value for Te Pūkenga. To gain a better understanding from student members about their thoughts on the new national Learners’ Committee that Te Pūkenga is establishing, our National Council invited two representatives to their last meeting. Matthew Schep of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) and Cornelius Prinsloo of the Students Association Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology Incorporated (SANITI) attended the Council meeting in Wellington on 6 October.
Matthew and Cornelius presented a ‘Student Voice Report’ which 14 student associations had contributed to. The report outlined to Council the current state of the learner voice and encouraged proactive and innovative ways to empower the learner voice across Te Pūkenga.
Cornelius, representing SANITI, says he still gets nervous when attending Council meetings even though he's been president for a number of years. Cornelius said, “Te Pūkenga’s team made us feel instantly welcome and valued, this really helped with the nerves, but also indicated to us a genuine and people-focused approach.
“For a long time learners have had to fight to be heard and for the first time in New Zealand history, we have an opportunity to band together and design a system that works. I truly believe the Te Pūkenga Council has this sentiment at their core and we saw empathy and care in that meeting room. I’ve since met with Murray Strong, the Chair and Stephen Town, the CE when they visited our institute recently and I saw reinforcement of this care approach as they engaged with our team.”
Matthew Schep, Vice-President of NZUSA said, “The engagement with Council was useful in that it put students and student voice issues on the table and identified them as a real priority for Te Pūkenga. They have mentioned a keen interest in contracting NZUSA to run the student subcommittee elections, and NZUSA feels that this is a fantastic opportunity for our two bodies to partner in pursuit of a common goal. We look forward to this partnership.”
The report presented to Council outlined what the authors felt were the five things that are most important to learners:
- Empower the learner voice
- Ensure Te Pūkenga and subsidiaries’ culture values student voice
- Effective and sustainable resourcing
- Using and building on existing structures
- Resourced, empowered, independent Māori learning voice
Meeting the needs of learners is crucial in a learner-centric vocational education and training system. It is also important that a reimagined system enables equitable outcomes for Māori and increased accessibility for all learners.
It’s vital that individual needs are considered - what might work for one student in a rural town may not work for another in a large urban centre. There’s no one size fits all, and with our focus on ākonga at the centre, our aim is that all students are listened to and communicated with in the way that best suits them so that every student voice can be heard without limitations or barriers.
We want to help Aotearoa to reach its potential and help people learn with purpose. We can’t do this without partnering closely with learners.