I must say I am very pleased the whole polytech/ITO 'turn the system on its head' debate has got a good bit of speed up. It started slowly with just another announcement from the Government that made little, if any, sense. And the response was largely silence.

I couldn't work out why the Industry Training Organisations in particular would not be deeply worried about what, at its heart, is a pure piece of ideology from an Education Minister, with not one moment's worth of experience in the ITO sector, or indeed private enterprise.

Schools got into the debate early when the same philosophy was dropped on them, centralised expertise as directed by Wellington wonks with big whiteboards.


They've formed the Tomorrow's Schools Coalition, they're organised. Where were the ITOs and techs? Well, they have at last arrived, and not a moment too soon. And a good debate has ensued, with this week's chapter involving the electricians saying the price of a sparky is going through the roof if this policy comes in.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has come back with his patch protection line. His fatal flaw appears to be, to think or he's been told to think, that the ITOs have failed because we have so many gaps in the workforce. If the ITOs worked, he says, we would have the number of sparkies, carpenters, and mechanics we need.

This is the danger of this Government, if you start on a wonky premise, the rest falls apart really rather quickly.

The fact we are short of labour is because there are more jobs than people, and it's been this way for close to a decade, back when the country was globally seen as a rockstar economy. Back when even at a 70,000+ net gain in migration per year, we still couldn't keep up with demand.

The very reason KiwiBuild never got off the start line was because our building industry was constrained, it still is. We were bringing in labour from everywhere because we were rebuilding an entire city.

The ITOs can't magic up people from the magic people pot. The ITOs also can't convince an 18-year-old to be a builder if they don't want to. The ITOs' job is to train the people who do want to be trained and in that, most people seem to think they're very successful.

Yes, there are some techs that have struggled. So fix them, help them, but don't tip the entire system on its head, and run it out of the political bureau in Wellington.

The good thing about this debate, unlike the gun debate, is there is time and potential for change. On guns it's over, the Government is not going to be moved. Gun owners lose, there's no turning back.


But on this you'd hope there is hope. You'd hope enough noise, enough debate, enough common sense, and experience from professionals who actually know what they're talking about, just might twist an arm or two, into not plummeting the whole thing over an ideological cliff from which there is no return.