The Reform of Vocational Education

“It is more important than ever that New Zealanders can get worthwhile qualifications, learners can be recognised for their skills, and industry can be confident in the quality of the workforce.”

Fiona Kingsford, Competenz CEO



2019 RoVE summary

The Reform of Vocational Education (RoVE) proposal was released by the Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins in February 2019. A lot more far reaching than most in the industry expected, its potential implications dominated the vocational education landscape throughout the year.

While Competenz welcomed the Minister’s desire to strengthen the vocational education sector, there was deep concern about the proposed disestablishment of the 11 industry training organisations (ITOs) and their role in supporting employers and learners.

In April 2019, we responded to the Government’s proposal with a submission based on the feedback of more than 1000 employers and industry leaders through an online survey, workshops and individual meetings. This submission and other detailed RoVE information can be found at

Competenz and its industry stakeholders largely agreed that:

  • The current system is complex and difficult for employers and learners to navigate
  • The financial position of the polytechnic sector was unsustainable and needs to be urgently addressed
  • More support is needed for Māori and Pasifika learners to accelerate achievement rates.

Competenz and its industry stakeholders did not agree with:

  • Considerable change and disruption to a system that is largely working well for industry and employers
  • The high risk and high cost proposal with little clarity of the impact on learners, employers and industry at a time of significant skills and labour shortages, and industrial change.

In August 2019, the Government confirmed its proposal was going ahead, largely unchanged. While Competenz was disappointed, the input from our employers and stakeholders during the consultation process meant we were well placed to support industry and the Government to design and implement the new system, and to advocate for our industries. Competenz subsequently adopted a constructive approach to support the design and implementation of RoVE. This has involved Competenz senior leadership contributing to many of the design and transition activities in the RoVE programme and in the establishment of the NZIST. 

Further extensive consultation on how industry wants the new Workforce Development Councils (WDCs) formed was undertaken via surveys and workshops. This saw another Competenz submission, based on industry feedback, presented to the Tertiary Education Commission on 25 October 2019. The full submission is available at 

Competenz is now focused on supporting its 37 industries with transition planning and getting the best outcome for learners, employers and industries in the new world, by adopting a ‘first-mover’ approach. This includes extensive industry engagement via more industry workshops, industry association board meetings and general consultation. 


What are the main changes to be implemented under RoVE? 

On 01 August 2019 the Government announced there will be seven key changes to create a unified vocational education system, full details can be found at As part of breaking down the barriers between on-the-job and off-the-job training, it will disestablish the eleven industry training organisations (ITOs), of which Competenz is one, and replace them with two new entities: 

  1. A new national delivery agency, the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology (NZIST) (working title), will deliver all classroom, digital, and on-the-job learning. This includes a merger of the sixteen Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics and the arranging training functions of the ITOs. While the IST was established on 01 April 2020, the latest date for transitioning the arranging of training to the IST is December 2022. 

  2. Workforce Development Councils (WDCs) with a powerful oversight role, responsible for setting standards for qualifications, unit standards and other skill standards; skills leadership; consistency of assessment and learner outcomes; advising on funding and industry brokerage. WDCs won’t be directly involved with arranging training. 


The WDC functions and the arranging of on-job training are currently ITO activities. On 17 December 2019, the Minister of Education confirmed the structure of the WDCs. Six industry-led WDCs will be established by June 2021. 

Workforce Development Councils coverage 

  • Manufacturing, Engineering, Logistics and Technology
  • Creative, Cultural and Recreation
  • Primary Industries
  • Service Industries
  • Health, Community and Social Services
  • Construction and Infrastructure.


What are the main implications for Competenz employers and learners? 

This WDC structure is aligned to the feedback our industries provided during consultation and Fiona Kingsford Competenz CEO says “it’s encouraging their views were listened to and to see this structure has been adopted”.

Competenz continues to work with the Government, MITO, NZMACITO, Primary ITO, Service IQ and industry representatives to support the development of the structure and governance arrangements of the Manufacturing, Engineering, Logistics and Technology WDC.

Competenz also continues to support forestry, journalism,  and graphic design to ensure the same seamless process is undertaken for the transition of the standard setting functions to the Primary WDC and Creative WDC.

While the training delivery landscape is definitely changing, these changes will be progressively implemented by December 2022. By June 2021, all WDCs will be in place and by December 2022, all work-based training will have transferred from Competenz to the new national institute, NZIST or another provider. However, for now, there is no interruption to the services Competenz provides to our employers, trainees and apprentices.

So, there is absolutely no reason for employers to stop signing their employees into training for fear apprentices and trainees won’t be able to complete because of upcoming changes.

All qualifications remain for now, they are fully supported by Competenz and everyone entering one will be able to complete them.