The proposed reform of the industry training sector has angered one of the sector's Māori leaders, who says there's been a lack of consultation with Māori.
ITO Māori representatives Te Rautaki Whakarōpu Māori called a meeting with stakeholders in Waikato to discuss their response to the proposed reforms.
The government has proposed merging all 16 polytechnics into a single national institute with one governing council. The plan also suggested stopping industry training organisations (ITOs) arranging and paying for training, and paring back their role to setting standards and qualifications and advising the Tertiary Education Commission.
Skills Active ITO chair Sam Napia said Māori enrol in large numbers for industry training and the government should have consulted with it well before issuing the proposals.
"Māori by and large prefer industry training over learning in the classroom," he said.
"We know that by the fact that 22,500 Māori enrol annually compared to 15,000 in polytech. Why is that? the reasons are clear; earn while you learn, be assured of employment upon qualification, compared to the experience of many that they come out with qualifications that don't necessarily guarantee them a job - but by and large but guaranteed them a student loan."
Mr Napia said there were strong messages coming through at the hui that the sector should not be dismantled when Māori achievement is equalling or exceeding non-Māori.
"Across the tertiary sector Māori lag behind 10 to 15 percent in terms of qualification and completion rates. Skills Active ITO has parity with non-Māori, and Māori are achieving and qualifying at the same or better rates as non-Māori. No polytech in this country can claim that.
"So don't you think that the government would have come to industry training leaders and Māori and asked 'what is it that you are doing that no one else is doing'?
"They didn't do that at all. This isn't a case of if it ain't broke, fix it, this is a case of if it's working well, rip the guts out of it and dismantle it."
He is calling on the government to bring Māori on board to co-design a system that works.
Māori community leader Maanu Paul, who was at the meeting, said the tight timeframe to respond to the reforms was unreasonable and unfair, and as a Treaty partner they should have better representation at the tēpu on the kaupapa.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the reform was being misrepresented to many and creating undue concern.
He said although the timeframe for feedback was tight, he was confident everyone who had an interest would get an opportunity to have their say.
"There will still be people doing on-job training and in fact we expect on-job training and apprenticeships to increase as a result of this.
"We aren't satisfied that we have enough people doing apprenticeships and job training and we have critical skill shortages at a time when we have a significant number of young New Zealanders who aren't involved in any form of education and many of whom are Māori. We think we can do a much better job."
Asked if he felt Māori were being consulted with meaningfully, he said one of the drivers for reform was to serve Māori better than the system currently does.
"As a whole it is not doing a good enough job of serving Māori students. They are not participating and achieving at the same rate as other students. We want to hear from iwi and we are deliberately going and seeking out and finding them in regions around the country. We do see their partnership quite critical to success."
Consultation for the proposal closes at the end of March.