Witt plans leadership restructure and five new schools

Taranaki's only vocational education institution has set out plans to restructure its leadership and introduce five new schools covering health, business, English, nursing and Engineering.

The aim is to make the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki (Witt) the “centrepiece” of tertiary education and training in the region and stop talented people leaving for other parts of the country, Witt chief executive John Snook said.

The proposals, which were announced to staff on Wednesday,  would also see the creation of two deputy chief executive roles, with one specifically responsible for business.

Snook described the changes as a refresh, saying they would benefit the local workforce and align teaching with Taranaki's economic future, as discussed at last month's Just Transition Summit.

“Witt is aligning its schools really closely with the economic development strategy that was approved at the Just Transition Summit, and our role is to play more of a part in the increase of productivity in the region's workforce,” Snook said.  

He said the changes would not have a financial cost and the reaction from teachers has been positive.

The changes would also ensured the polytechnic was prepared for changes in tertiary education.

“It's time for Witt to deliver the vocational, research and higher education that this community wants and needs,” Snook said. “It is time for Witt to do much better.”

The plans would see the introduction of a School of Enterprise, Business and Technology, a School of English, Foundation Education and Pathway, a School of Nursing, Health and Wellness, a School of Trade Training, Primary & Creative Industries, and a School of Engineering, Energy and Infrastructure.

Justine Gilliland, chief executive of regional development agency Venture Taranaki, said the Witt proposal was critical.

“Establishing  schools and education pathways that reflect the opportunities in the region, and there are many, will help strengthen future employability and Taranaki's enterprises, while ensuring skills acquired at Witt are both current and relevant as Taranaki transitions to a low-emissions economy.

“The proposed changes reflect that the region's future prosperity will stem from more than just growing businesses. It's about aligning all of our endeavours to raise our region's performance and shared prosperity.

“Venture Taranaki welcomes the proposal, and sees it as a strong move to securing our region's sustainable future.”

Feedback on the proposal will be accepted until June 19 before a final decision is expected on June 28.

It hasn't been smooth sailing for Witt in recent years. In 2018 the-then CEO Barabara George left to pursue another job after a challenging five years, which included a vote of no confidence by staff in 2015, a drop in student numbers and financial troubles.

Snook took over as CEO in February, beating 30 candidates to the role.

The international kayaker-turned-education guru has the position for the next two years and has promised to listen to staff and others involved in Witt.

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