7 Dec 2023

Te Pūkenga halts transformation amid new instructions from government

1:15 pm on 7 December 2023
Te Pukenga

(file image) Photo: supplied

Super-institute Te Pūkenga has halted its multi-million-dollar transformation and the fate of hundreds of staff is in limbo.

On Thursday, the organisation's chief executive, Peter Winder, told staff the new government had sent new instructions for the organisation, which combined 16 polytechnics and nine workplace training providers on 1 January this year.

The government did not want a centralised organisation for vocational education and training but it would take time to come up with a replacement plan, Winder said.

In the meantime, Te Pūkenga was halting an IT restructure and recruitment for newly-created positions.

Winder said the institute was considering what the change of direction meant for recently-hired staff and those due to be made redundant next year and this month.

"Our immediate focus is to work through what this change of direction means for the newly-established roles to which we have made appointments, and to the roles that have been disestablished," Winder's message said.

"For kaimahi with finish dates in December, we will communicate directly and provide advice as soon as possible. For other kaimahi, given the timeframes, unfortunately this will not be before Christmas."

In a statement provided to RNZ, Winder said: "Our immediate focus is on supporting kaimahi and ākonga through this change in direction and working to provide certainty on what this means for them - as soon as possible.

"At this time, we wish to acknowledge and thank our kaimahi for their dedication and commitment to ākonga and employers, and to meeting the vocational education and training needs of the country through a period of significant transition and change.

"It is also our commitment to ensure ākonga can enrol or continue studying, confident that any organisational change required to meet the government's expectations does not impact the learning, skills and qualifications they will receive."

The government had told Te Pūkenga that disestablishing it would require legislative change and "Cabinet decisions on the disestablishment process and the configuration of the future network".

In September, the institute announced restructuring that would result in the net loss of about 200 jobs effective from April next year.

However, some jobs were due to end this month.

Te Pūkenga was created by the previous government as part of wider reforms of the vocational education system.

It attracted criticism for slow progress in establishing itself and for large deficits from its polytechnic operations.

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