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Primary ITO: Knowledge to grow

News & Features

The Reform of Vocational Education

1 March 2019

Primary ITO will be contributing to the Government’s proposed Reform of Vocational Education and remains committed to providing the best possible service to employers and their trainees and apprentices.

The Reform of Vocational Education proposes new Industry Skills Bodies (ISBs). Existing ITOs like Primary ITO could apply to become ISBs.

Primary ITO will be engaging with the industries that depend on us for arranging training, and making a submission before the deadline of 27 March.

This page contains information on how the proposed reforms would affect training for the primary industries and how to make sure your views are taken into consideration during the consultation period.

Supporting information for the primary industries on the Government’s Reform of Vocational Education

These notes are set out in three sections, aiming to:

A. Summarise the proposals under the Government’s Reform of Vocational Education.

B. Explain the effects of these proposals on training for the primary industries and the key areas where Primary ITO will be giving feedback to the Government. These points may be useful in writing a submission for your own organisation.

C. Provide information on how to make submissions or give your feedback to Primary ITO.

A. Summary of the proposals

The full proposals are available on the Government’s Reform of Vocational Education website.

In terms of the effects on primary industries training, there are four key changes proposed:

  1. A single national Institute of Skills & Technology, with regional campuses. This would replace the current polytechnics and institutes of technology.

  2. Provision of vocational education and training would be done by this new institute, both on campus and at the workplace.

  3. A unified funding system would cover all vocational education, whether it was fulltime and pre-employment, part-time away from the workplace, or solely on-the-job.

  4. Industry Skills Bodies (ISBs) would be created with some greater powers than Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) currently have. There would also be some reduced powers, including removing the role of organising arrangements between employers and workers.

These proposals aim to:

  • reduce competition in vocational education.

  • reorganise the ITPs in order to enhance Government oversight and prevent the retrenchment of regional ITPs.

  • increase the vocational education pipeline.

The following diagram illustrates what the proposed changes would mean for primary industries vocational education and training.


B. The effects of the four proposals for the primary industries

Any reforms must address the unique nature of training in the primary industries.

  • Many primary industry workplaces and trainees are in more remote locations, or have high literacy or numeracy needs, meaning greater resources and support are needed to ensure industry can get the skills it needs.

  • The practical nature of the primary industries can mean that training must happen in the workplace – it would not be appropriate for a centralised institute to be responsible for planning and delivering it.

  • The primary sector can be risky and volatile, with factors like seasonality, climate change and economic changes. The primary industries have a workforce that moves more often between employers, locations and even sectors than is the case in other industries. As staff retention times are often not long enough for employers to gain a return on training investment, responsibility for training should balance current employer and employee needs with the needs of developing a highly skilled workforce of the future.


1. The single national Institute of Skills & Technology

  • Stabilising and supporting the ITP sector is essential, but a new Institute should not be formed at the expense of industry-led workplace learning and optimising human capability for industry and NZ Inc.

  • Co-operation rather than competition between all education sectors is essential.

  • Around 80 percent of New Zealand’s workforce of the future is already in the workplace, so any reforms must focus heavily on the needs of this large group.

2. Provision of vocational education and training to be done by this new institute

  • In addition to having learning support and course content delivered for their employees, employers also need to know that their company and industry needs, productivity targets and business circumstances will be paramount when it comes to arranging training.

  • For the primary industries, a new ISB, transitioning from the current Primary ITO, will be better placed to take on the role of arranging training than the other suggested groups like wananga or proposed “skills and employment hubs”. This is because a primary industries ISB would be led by industry with links both into senior leadership and on the ground. Providers or regional hubs would have little connection to industry extension services, so would not have a complete picture of the options available to learners when advising them on options for training.

  • We firmly believe the new ISB for the primary industries should retain Primary ITO’s role of arrange training as this is also both a key way of keeping in touch with industry, and ensuring industry gets specialist advice from on-the-ground primary industry experts.

  • A primary industries ISB, like the current Primary ITO, should both be on the ground and able to assess training needs, while being driven by high-level industry leadership to ensure the right training is available to meet those needs. It is unlikely that a centralised institute would be able to carry out these twin roles, while also delivering the training.

  • Historical experience also suggests that delivering primary sector training has been difficult for ITPs, who have moved away from it. An industry-led approach to meet its needs is more likely to be successful.


3. A unified funding system

  • We applaud the proposal’s recognition that the higher costs associated with the primary sector training would need to be addressed in funding. Remote locations, literacy and numeracy levels, and information technology quality and availability are all factors for the primary industries.

  • The level of funding must be adequate to cover the true costs of delivering vocational education and training to the quality necessary for New Zealand industries to be globally competitive.

  • Employers should not bear the cost of training alone. In many of the primary industries, employees often stay with one employer for only a relatively short time before moving on to other workplaces. This means training benefits are spread across the whole sector and New Zealand in general.

  • A unified funding system is needed to make training attractive for employers.

4. Industry Skills Bodies (ISBs)

  • A new primary industries ISB should be comprehensive, covering all primary industries making up the sector.

  • A new primary industries ISB should be led by industry.

  • The new ISB should address current coverage anomalies where Primary ITO’s coverage doesn’t extend to all primary industries.

  • The primary industries should have a determining say in the make-up of the ISB for the sector. It should be driven and led by industry.

  • Primary ITO is best-placed to transition into the ISB for the primary industries. This would mean retaining the benefits gained from previous sector reforms and gaining the new benefits, without losing the considerable work that industry has invested in the ITO. It would also mitigate the chance of losses from a long lead time until the new ISB is fully operational.

  • The extended leadership role for industry and employers through the proposed ISB would provide a clear channel for ensuring government is properly informed on industry skills needs.

  • The responsibilities of the new ISB for primary industries should include:

    • School and Level 2 qualifications up to and including vocational degrees.
    • Attraction of school leavers and career changes to the sector.
    • Oversight of workplace learner support.
    • Powers to link non-formal and informal learning and labour market planning.
    • Operational powers to guarantee effective employer-facing arrangements and “brokerage”. This is important as brokers need to work with employers to identify how and what training can support them to increase productivity and achieve their business goals.
    • Retaining the current high-touch training advisor workforce. This is a key need of facilitating training in the primary industries’ diverse and often remote locations.


C. How to make your submission

The full consultation documents are available at

There are multiple ways to make a submission but emailing an individual submission to may be the most efficient way of contributing. Consultation closes on 27 March.

At Primary ITO we would like to know what you think is important with these proposed reforms. We can also support you in a number of ways ensuring your views are heard:

  • Providing you with additional support in understanding the likely impacts on primary industries training.

  • Receiving input from you which we can include in our submission.

  • Help with your submission, for example by providing you with statistical information on training or workforce characteristics.

Please contact us at if you would like further information.