Partnership sparking transformational change for engineering provider

“In the previous version of the vocational education system, providers typically weren’t involved in the development of qualifications and standards,” says Apprentice Training New Zealand (ATNZ) Chief Executive, Tim Wilson.  “The whole process was sequential, with the Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) doing all of the development work first.  Then, when it was finished, we would decide if we wanted to do anything in that space.”

That approach has changed, Tim says, with Hanga-Aro-Rau Workforce Development Council (WDC) connecting with ATNZ at the beginning of the development process.  “We are currently working on a new fluid power qualification; this started with an industry engagement manager from Hanga-Aro-Rau reaching out to us.  He told us that they were working with a small subset of the industry that didn’t have a qualification but wanted one, and asked if we would like to contribute to that.  By being involved from the beginning, we were able to commit to it up-front and start the development work alongside them.”

As a Private Training Establishment (PTE) and New Zealand’s biggest employer of apprentices in mechanical engineering, ATNZ is motivated to get training programmes delivered to learners as quickly as possible, Tim says.  “A more collaborative and interactive approach will make a significant difference in the agility of the training system.  That’s really been the prize of the creation of the Workforce Development Councils.”  Providers are now also better able to offer subject matter expertise, he adds.  “Providers understand best how new qualifications could be trained and assessed, so having the opportunity to feed in those perspectives early results in better qualifications.”

The proactive approach of Hanga-Aro-Rau and its industry engagement team has been especially beneficial for a new welding qualification, Tim says.  “Similar to the work we’re doing now with fluid power, we were approached about the need for a welding qualification to help combat a massive skill shortage in that area.  Alongside Hanga-Aro-Rau, we were able to develop that training product and get it to learners very quickly – within about five months of the qualification being listed, where historically that could have taken up to two years.”

Smaller industries, in particular, are reaping the benefits of WDC support, Tim says.  “What’s fundamentally different now is that industry voices are being captured at all sizes and scales.  Niche sectors like fluid power – which has been a significant industry for decades – were getting lost before.  Hanga-Aro-Rau heard that really early on and responded to it.  That’s been a massive improvement.”

Tim says he is excited to continue working alongside Hanga-Aro-Rau towards an improved, more agile system.  “We really enjoy working with them and I think there is value being contributed from both sides.  Ultimately, I believe it all comes down to relationships.  The willingness of Hanga-Aro-Rau to find solutions and be proactive makes me confident that we’re on the right path.  The only way to ascertain the needs of industry is to go out and talk to them, and to listen.”