Labour fighting to save polytechs

By Jenee Tibshraeny


The Bay of Plenty Polytechnic showed no need for revival, when Labour's deputy leader Grant Robertson visited the campus as part of his "Save Our Polytechs" campaign yesterday.

While the Windermere campus was a hive of orientation week activity, Mr Robertson said the whole region was suffering from continuous cuts in government funding to the polytech.

Mr Robertson said he believed it was short-sighted for the Government to cut funding to the polytech by more than $2 million during a time when the area was host to the second highest proportion of the 90,000 people not in education, employment or training in the country.

"Unemployment is 1.7 percentage points higher in the Bay of Plenty than the national average. People are crying out for training opportunities," he said.

The polytech had suffered funding cuts every year since 2009, its budget surplus dropping by about three-quarters during this time.

Polytech chief executive Alan Hampton said: "We're experiencing the same financial pressures as other parts of our economy. We are constantly looking at ways to be more efficient without compromising the quality of our programmes and ultimately the successful outcomes of our students."

Cuts in 2011 forced the axing of three community computer courses and meant the polytech took in 120 fewer full-time students.

The number of students attending the polytech is nearly half of what it was in 2007.

The polytech had also suffered from the Government putting a third of funding for Level 1 and 2 foundation courses up for private tender.

Mr Robertson was cynical about this process, claiming: "Rather than choosing people who would fill [skills] gaps, the Government went for the ones with the lowest tenders."

Nonetheless, the Government argued it had plugged skills gap in different ways. The polytech received a portion of the $42 million the Government made available for new engineering courses across the country.

The injection has seen the polytech add a diploma in civil engineering to its prospectus this year.

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Max Mason said: "I absolutely support more training. The more we can encourage people who are not on the education ladder, the higher chance we have to have a higher wage economy."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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