Weltec funding cut prompts protests

MATT STEWART
Last updated 17:03 22/11/2012

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The loss of $2m in funding for WelTec has prompted fears youth could turn to crime in stead of trade courses.

About 20 Tertiary Education Union (TEU) members, including tutors from the trade academies likely to be affected, protested at WelTec’s Petone campus yesterday with the cutting of a red-iced cake as part of protests across 14 polytechnics around the country. 

"The red icing symbolises blood – we’ve got some bleeding going on here today," TEU WelTec organiser Phil Dyhrberg said.

TEU estimates WelTec will lose 300 equivalent full-time students and 24 full-time jobs will be cut. 

Nationally the union calculated $10.9m of funding and 95 jobs would be lost across 18 polytechnics, including the loss of $2.6m in funding, 375 equivalent full-time students and 33 jobs confirmed at Ucol in Palmerston North and Wanganui.

Mr Dyhrberg said if WelTec’s automotive, electrotech, mechanical, creative technology and foundation courses, which cover basic maths and English, were closed it could affect more than a thousand, many of whom were "at-risk" teenage boys.

Trade courses often absorbed adolescent boys who had dropped out of a secondary school system geared to the academic needs of girls, putting them back on the streets or in the dole queue.

"It means idle hands can get in trouble and it could flow on to crime and unemployment – it’s not good for Naenae, it’s not good for Belmont, it’s not good for Normandale," Mr Dyhrberg said 

The review has been prompted by government changes to the way level 1 and 2 student achievement foundation - or pre-training - courses are funded.

It means $38m of $115m in funding is up for tender and programmes will move from polytechs to private training institutes. 

TEU national president Sandra Grey said the funding change was an "ideological experiment" by tertiary education, skills and employment minister Stephen Joyce that would go "horribly wrong."

"WelTec’s going to be a big loser and will have no option but to make cuts – you can’t absorb the loss of two million dollars," Ms Grey said.

Thousands of students would not be able to enrol for dozens of threatened courses and many respected tutors could lose their jobs, she said.

WelTec chief executive Linda Sisson said the polytech was was not currently planning to close any of the trade schools.

She would not comment on whether the schools would close in the future because WelTec had not received any formal advice around the funding changes from government.

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Prompted by government "signals" and the needs of employers, she said WelTec was "shifting our delivery up the framework to higher level delivery."

WelTec electrotech tutor Chris Meehan said the funding could threaten the nation’s electricity infrastructure, much of which was installed in in the 1930 and 1940s and was "reaching the end of its life" because the nation’s "ageing fleet of electricians" was not being replaced by younger apprentices. 

Many of the students he had taught had matured into capable adults as a result of learning a trade.

"Lots of these kids grow up in these courses and are watching each other achieve – that’s better than being dumped out in a gang or on the streets."

Contact Matt Stewart
Weather, science and environment reporter
Email: matt.stewart@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @smatape

- The Dominion Post

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