Teachers say schools are treating hospitality and tourism as dummy subjects and discouraging students from pursuing them as careers.
Concerns over the lack of co-ordination between secondary, tertiary and industry education and training has been a key issue at the AUT School of Hospitality and Tourism Teachers Symposium.
With tourism one of the country's biggest export earners, members of the industry warned of a skills shortage, with poor education and training in the sector.
Speakers at the symposium said tourism was vital to New Zealand's economy, supporting 94,100 full-time equivalent jobs and another 47,000 more jobs by 2025, and getting the right education and training in place should be a priority.
But teachers said a change in the structure of New Zealand's National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) meant tourism was no longer being recognised as an accredited subject for University Entrance (UE) from 2014.
"On the one hand we are hearing about a booming tourism industry and how desperate the industry is for talented workers, while on the other hand changes to NCEA have created obstacles to students pursuing tourism studies," said AUT Head of Department for Hospitality, David Williamson.
"This is the type of contradiction that exists in the tourism and hospitality education policy at present," says Williamson.
Mr Williamson said migrant workers were filling a third of jobs in the two sectors.
He said 1800 managers were needed in accommodation alone, but warned that without better education and training, the sectors would become more dependent on migrant workers.
He said the government and secondary and tertiary schools needed to work together on providing better education pathways for students.