15 jobs facing axe at Waiariki

By abbey.hartevelt@dailypost.co.nz, Abigail Hartevelt

Up to 15 jobs at Waiariki Institute of Technology may go as part of the first phase of a review.

And the tertiary institute is not ruling out more job losses down the track.

Deputy chief executive John Snook also resigned last week and has left the institute.

The institute's director of human resources, Richard Bird, said 14.7 positions were being reviewed and meetings had been held this week with affected staff. All staff had been informed about the review.

Mr Bird said most of the affected staff were on permanent contracts and included management roles as well as administration and support staff but not teaching staff.

Final decisions had not been made. Staff were going through a consultation period and the unions were involved.

Decisions on the cuts were expected to be made within the next month.

He said cuts were having to be made after the Government reduced funding for low level programmes including bridging programmes and other foundation courses.

The polytechnic was expecting 200 fewer international students this year after issues with the Waiariki pathway course, that saw hundreds of international nursing students train in Rotorua, was scrapped this year.

The decision to scrap the Bachelor in Nursing for Registered Nurses course was made last year after international students on the course had to fight to stay on track to receive their nursing registrations.

The polytech also received funding last year to train 100 students as part of a scheme for the Canterbury rebuild. This year they had hoped to train a further 169, but only received funding for 100.

Mr Bird said one of the positions was that of former support services director Christa George who left the role last year and had not been replaced.

He said the institute would work with affected staff to see if there were any other areas where they could be redeployed.

Mr Bird said there could be a second phase of the review in March focused  around whether the institute had the right structure and he said he could not rule out further job losses then.

Meanwhile, Mr Snook will not be replaced.

Mr Bird said he did not know why Mr Snook had resigned but he had been looking at other options for a while. Mr Snook could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Mr Snook was one of two deputy chief executives and the other deputy chief executive, Keith Ikin, would take on a lot of Mr Snook's responsibilities.

Waiariki chief executive Professor Margaret Noble is  overseas, but in a statement said the changing landscape of the tertiary education sector, with many institutes of technology and polytechnics facing reduced funding in 2013, presented some challenges but Waiariki remained focused on its mission.

As well as the restructure, the senior management team had opted not to have any salary increases this year, Prof  Noble said.

She  said there were a number of exciting developments at Waiariki.

The institute was finalising an ambitious strategic plan for the next five years with plans for a new Centre for Business, Research and Enterprise and a focus on partnerships with business and iwi to meet the projected needs of the Waiariki region.

The institute  is also committed to raising student achievement and success and is launching the Trades Academy in Rotorua this year. New postgraduate programmes in business management, tourism, health and computing will also be available from July this year.

Tertiary Institutes Allied Staff Association chief executive Peter Joseph said his union was working with staff through the consultation period. He  said as part of the review some of the positions were being amended and some new roles created, and he had some concerns over the level of qualifications that people would need to have for those positions.

"The qualifications for some of them are both unnecessary and unrealistic."

He said in some of the roles the institute was looking for a PhD and the people in those roles did not hold a PhD.

"Waiariki needs to acknowledge that it is not a university."

However, Mr Bird said while Waiariki was not a university it was teaching applied degree courses and was about to start teaching postgraduate courses, which required people to have PhDs.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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