Another restructure is set for the Bay of Plenty's polytechnic Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, just three years after the merger that created it.

The Government today has confirmed a major shake-up of the polytech sector by creating the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology.

Industry leaders and regional interests will have a much greater role in the Government's overhaul of the vocational education sector, which will bring 16 polytechnics and institutes of technology under one centrally-run institute.

Toi Ohomai is one of 16 polytechnics and institutes of technology which will form to one centrally-run institute. Photo / File
Toi Ohomai is one of 16 polytechnics and institutes of technology which will form to one centrally-run institute. Photo / File

Education Minister Chris Hipkins made the announcement, having flagged many of the proposals that will affect 110,000 polytech students and 140,000 industry trainees and apprentices earlier this year .


Toi Ohomai chief executive Dr Leon Fourie said he supported the move and had been heavily involved in the consultation process.

"We believe these decisions will result in future-proofing the vocational education training system, which brings on-and-off job training into one seamless and connected system."

He said as with all Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs), Toi Ohomai had experienced the challenges of operating within a funding model that was not-fit-for-purpose and reiterated Hipkins' message that the ITP sector as a whole had been in survival model for "quite some time".

"We are therefore disappointed that the announcements did not signal a significant change to the funding model in the short-term.

"However, it was heartening to hear the minister acknowledge the high costs associated with regional delivery and his desire to establish a funding model that is more about quality than it is about volume"

Toi Ohomai is one of New Zealand's largest institutes, created after a merger between Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and Waiariki Institute of Technology in May 2016.

It has eight campuses and centres in Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupō, Tokoroa and Whakatāne with 14,000 students and 1000 staff.

Cathy Cooney at the official launch Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology. Photo / File
Cathy Cooney at the official launch Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology. Photo / File

Toi Ohomai council chairwoman Cathy Cooney said she would take the lessons learned from the merger to support the team.


"We are proud that during our merger we were able to retain a 91 per cent student satisfaction rate, and we will work together to ensure that the impact on our students is as minimal as possible."

The 1300 employees with the 11 Industry Training Organisations (ITO) may find that their jobs fit into the new structure, or they will need to look for new jobs within the national institute and Workforce Development Councils (WDC).

National Party tertiary education spokesman Shane Reti counted those as 1300 job losses and estimated there would be a similar number across polytechs.

He said moving apprentices from ITOs to campuses that were formerly polytechnics would see courses that were not tailored to industry needs.

"Employers are telling us they will cease to employ apprentices next year if apprentices go back to polytechnics. This is a big step backwards especially when our construction sector is crying out for apprentices."

Hipkins said the sector would remain the same for the time being while the transition begins, and students should continue to sign up for courses and providers should continue to deliver them.


The sector needed an overhaul because automation will affect one-third of all jobs and, as early as 2022, more than half of all workers will require upskilling and retraining.

"We also know the regions are increasingly struggling to find enough skilled people to keep their economies strong," Hipkins said.

"Too many Māori, Pacific and disabled learners are being left behind to achieve at a lower level because the system just won't respond to their needs.

"Currently however, nearly nine out of 10 of our businesses are not training through industry training. Yet at the same time, 71 per cent of employers surveyed say there is, or will soon be, a skills shortage in their industry area."

A stakeholder advisory group will be formed advise on the reforms, which the Government expects to be fully implemented by June 2023.

The cost of the reforms remains unclear.

Emire Khan-Malak supports the merger as long as students remain the focus. Photo / File
Emire Khan-Malak supports the merger as long as students remain the focus. Photo / File

Toi Ohomai student pulse president Emire Khan-Malak said the merger was a good thing but she hoped the focus would remain on the students.

"This will have positive parts because students will be able to go anywhere in the country to study and it will be easy if anyone needing to do cross-crediting.

"Student services are something that we would like to remain for the sake of the students."

The seven key changes are:

• The 16 institutes of technology and polytechnics will be brought under a single national institute, the NZ Institute of Skills and Technology, which will start on April 1, 2020

• New Regional Skills Leadership Groups, made up of councillors, employers, iwi and community leaders, will work across education, immigration and welfare systems in each region to identify skills needs and how to meet them


• Around four to seven industry-governed Workforce Development Councils (WDC) will be created by 2022, setting standards and eventually replacing the 11 industry training organisations (ITOs).

• Holding organisations will be formed to smooth the transition from ITOs over the next two to three years

• Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs) will be established at regional campuses to drive innovation and expertise, and improve links between education, industry and research.

• Māori will be key partners, including through Te Taumata Aronui, a Māori Crown tertiary education group

• The dual funding system will be unified and simplified to encourage greater integration of on-the-job and off-the-job learning. The current system incentivises providers to keep learners for as long as possible.