NorthTec's acting chief executive says balancing the role of the regions with the benefits of bringing polytechnics under one roof will be important in the vocational education reform.

Wayne Jackson's comments come just over a week after Education Minister Chris Hipkins released wide-ranging proposals for strengthening vocational education in New Zealand.

Jackson said although it was too early to say how exactly the changes would impact NorthTec, an education shake-up was needed.

"We welcome the review, and early on when the review was announced the board chairman of the time and the chief executive wrote to the Tertiary Education Commission saying that we supported the review and we thought there were fundamental changes that needed to be made."


Included in the vocational education proposals is the establishment of the NZ Institute of Skills and Technology which would take over programme design and administration for all campuses of what are now 16 separate polytechnics, including NorthTec, and take over enrolling and managing apprentices and industry trainees from what are now 11 industry training organisations (ITOs).

It also proposed the formation of regional leadership groups to ensure there's strong regional influence in the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology.

Jackson said what was best for learners would be the focus of any submission NorthTec made during the consultation process.

"The strongest thing I think is getting the balance of the benefits of having the consolidation of the polytechs under one banner, but balancing that with the ability of the regions to manage the critical parts of the business and relationships to get good learner outcomes"

Jackson said there were three main elements of the proposal at the forefront for NorthTec - the folding together of the ITOs and polytechnics, which Jackson was supportive of; the equalisation of funding between ITO side and the polytechnic side, which he believed would make the provision of student support and pastoral care more effective; and bringing the polytechnics under one banner, which he also supported.

"The one area that is a challenge - and to be fair the Government have really opened up the conversation on this - is the level of local autonomy and the ability to tailor what we offer to the community in a way that suits the needs of the community.

"Northland's got its challenges, it's one of the largest geographical regions in terms of educational delivery, and the population is fairly thinly spread and so consequently we have the largest number of learning centres across the region."

Jackson said the changes would not impact any student's ability to graduate in the courses they enrol in.

"Any student should have complete confidence that if they enrol in a subject, they will be taught in that subject and they will graduate and get their award in that subject."

Jackson encouraged people to make submissions on the proposals before the consultation period ends on March 27.

On Wednesday next week the Review of Vocational Education team will be at NorthTec's Apprentice Restaurant so people can drop in during those hours if they have questions.