A change towards a mix of classroom and distance learning with the creation of a single tertiary institution should enable more Northlanders to build their skills, NorthTec says.
The premier vocational education provider in Northland is keen to partner with local iwi and other stakeholders such as the construction sector and offer a range of training, including pre-qualification requirements.
The Government has signalled plans to overhaul vocational education by creating the single biggest tertiary institution in the country — a national polytechnic with more than 130,000 students.
The New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology would be created in April next year by making the existing 16 polytechnics and institutes of technology, including NorthTec, into subsidiaries of a national institute.
NorthTec acting chief executive Wayne Jackson said with nearly half of Northland's working population with no secondary qualifications, the merger of polytechs represented both a challenge and a good opportunity to build skills that met the needs of employers.
"The proposed changes to vocational training will mean we can help those Northlanders, whether in work or not, to obtain any prequalification necessary for them to enter tertiary vocational training – this includes foundation levels and pre-work training which can flow into apprenticeships and other higher tertiary vocational levels."
Jackson said a report from Infometrics, commissioned by NorthTec, showed there would be 25,000 replacement and new jobs available in Northland by 2024 with more than half in the medium to high skills category.
He said the development of small units of learning, called micro-credentials, would allow Northlanders to learn in bite sized bits things relevant to their needs using new digital tools over their working lives.
"The implications for people in low population areas in Northland are enormous because they will be able to stay in their community and, in the future, have access to an ever wider range of programmes."
Jackson said about 21,000 people that were employed in the business community may want to upgrade their skills as well as people whose skills have fallen away such as single mothers who wanted to re-enter the workplace.
The nature of vocational education was changing, he said, and NorthTec was keen to increasingly offer a mix of digital and classroom learning.
Jackson said going forward, Northlanders should be able to receive all the core subjects at NorthTec without travelling more than 30 minutes from their home.
NorthTec has 380 staff and 5000 students across its campuses in Whangārei, Dargaville, Kerikeri, Kaikohe, Kaitaia, and Auckland.
Meanwhile, Whangārei MP Dr Shane Reti said under the reform, cash reserves would be held by one mega polytechnic who would then decide how the cash was spent in regions.
"Polytechnics are too scared to speak out as there are clauses stating that during the two to three year establishment phase, it is actually the (Education) minister who will have final sign off on their cash grab reserves," he said.