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Every day, hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders are being looked after by a dedicated workforce committed to giving them the quality of care they deserve. From rest-homes to community homes, or people requiring at-home care, tens of thousands of staff are working hard to ensure that those in their care enjoy each day as much as possible.
Many are equipped with skills to do their job for our most vulnerable thanks to the successful training developed by Careerforce, one of the country's leading on-the-job industry training organisations (ITO).
It's a proven model of success - but one now at risk with the Government's rush to reform the vocational education sector.
The Government is proposing to disestablish ITOs as they exist today, and shift the core function of supporting the delivery of on-the-job training to a new single mega-institute.
Because the on-the-job training model works for trainees and the people they care for - empathy cannot be taught in a classroom.
And because vulnerable New Zealanders could, in the end, pay a price for what is a crisis in polytechnics, not ITOs.
ITOs deliver what employers need in the workplace. In the industry's view, the system is not broken, so why take the risk of radical reform that appears rushed and with very little time for consultation?
And why risk any uncertainty that could add to our already severe skilled worker shortages? Our sectors alone require another 80,000 workers over the next six years to meet rising demand, with real pressure on mental health support services and the aged care industry.
On-the-job training delivers practical hands-on learning for some of our most valuable workers. Many are second-chance learners who are thriving in the on-the-job training environment, having previously struggled with traditional classroom-based learning.
There is a danger that the reforms will severely disrupt workforce development, impose extra costs on employers, and that the voice of our sectors will be lost in the shift of trainees and apprentices to the proposed single national institute.
So what is the industry asking for?
We are asking the Government to slow down. There has not been industry consultation of substance. We are not even sure exactly what the supposed problems are at the ITO or "on-the-job" end of the vocational education spectrum that the Government is trying to solve.
We are simply asking the Government to not abandon the proven value of the ITO model in its bid to reform the problematic polytech sector. We are asking it to deal with this immediate problem, and to then work with stakeholders to ensure the best possible long-term solution.
And we are asking the Government to be mindful of getting this reform right for the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable and dependent New Zealanders who require skilled and qualified care and support.
Careerforce wants to work with the Government to make sure reforms tackle the real problems, to better deliver trained workers fit for the job they need to do, and to ensure the system delivers the best value for money - for taxpayers, learners and employers.
Our employers are at the coalface. They know what success should look like and where the areas of improvement are.
We are confident that there is a better way forward that preserves the best of the current system while dealing with the challenges.
Together with our stakeholders, we are united in our common goal to improve the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders, and we will continue to advocate for our sectors, their workforce and the hundreds and thousands of people they care for every day.
Careerforce is an Industry Training Organisation which oversees workplace training in the health and wellbeing sector.