The government today announced changes to New Zealand's careers sector that will support students to think about their tertiary education and future employment earlier.
The reforms will see Careers New Zealand become part of the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC). Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce said TEC will take responsibility, with support from the tertiary sector and key industries, for providing a seamless flow of high quality careers and training information for students at school, tertiary education and through to employment.
“We want students to make informed decisions about their future career, so they can set themselves up with a job and a future they’re passionate about, while at the same time providing skills where they’re needed and making a valuable contribution to New Zealand,” says Mr Joyce.
The Government started reviewing Careers NZ in November 2014, before taking the decision to review the careers system as a whole and the Government’s role in it. Joyce describes the new reforms as the "logical next step" following moves to strengthen links between education and employment through initiatives like Trades Academies, Vocational Pathways and Youth Guarantee.
Initially, the 121 Careers New Zealand staff will transfer to the TEC. The TEC and Careers New Zealand boards will set up a team to support staff through the change. The TEC will then work through a transition process to align its resources, including staffing, to its new business functions.
Education Minister Hekia Parata says the reforms will also look at how careers education and advice will be incorporated in Communities of Learning.
Industry Training Federation chief executive Josh Williams describes the reform as "a very good step" in improving the quality of information across the education system about jobs and careers.
"People need good clear information that helps them connect the dots between school and tertiary education and work," he says. "There is a lot of good information out there, including tools, information, and services provided by Careers New Zealand, however careers information has been scattered across a number of schemes, websites, and government agencies."
Chris Whelan, Executive Director of Universities New Zealand, agrees the current careers information system as a mishmash.
“The problem is that there are too many government agencies, schools and providers producing different and often poor quality or incomplete information. Within schools, the quality and amount of careers advice varies significantly, meaning many students aren’t getting the advice or information they need to make the best study and career choices."
He says school students need to be thinking about their broad career pathway as early as their first or second year at secondary school, so they are taking the right subjects as they move into NCEA.
“We therefore welcome reforms that will ensure a more joined-up system, delivering more consistent information.
However, the New Zealand Union of Student Associations is concerned that the announcements suggest that tertiary education is solely about getting skills for jobs.
“This is a toxic narrative and will turn tertiary institutions into job readiness factories," says president Linsey Higgins. "If we look at the Education Act's tertiary sections the principal aims talk nothing about tertiary education being about employment. It’s about ‘intellectual independence’ and being ‘repositories of knowledge’ and most importantly being the ‘critic and conscience of society’.”