PEOPLE & PERFORMANCE                                                back to articles menu

LIFE WITH PUNTER

TOPIC: NZQA - JUGGERNAUT OR SHINING PATH?

NZQA. Four little letters that mean different things depending on the reader. For some, just the sound of those four little letters causes a raising of the blood-pressure combined with a weeping and gnashing of teeth, for others it means something they’ve chosen to ignore, gambling that NZQA will be just another flash-in-the-pan. For a while, I too was a bystander, hearing all the bad news about NZQA, not knowing enough to ask questions, too busy to give it any thought, vaguely frightened of it and with a subconscious hope that, if ignored long enough, it might go away.

In the end, I was bullied into it. By others who see NZQA as something necessary, acknowledging that while it is far from perfect yet, it is still better than nothing, and that it’s up to us to make it grow. And I slowly came to see that since I am a player in the Industry, not large but solid, and here for the long term, that it is in my interests to support, be part of, and assist if asked, an Organisation that seeks to create a National integrity in the training function.

Instead of trying to deal with it myself, which was impossible anyway, I employed one person to concentrate on the task for me. Yes, it costs money, and one of my concerns is that the fees charged are not scaled - the cash requirement is substantial for me, but a mere drop in the ocean for the larger Organisations. For me, NZQA meant no new computer this year, and I’m still not sure what the final bill will be.

My advice to my colleagues who are a bit leery of trying the NZQA path? Give it a go. Don’t try to interpret what they want. Take each item in the application one by one, deal with it exactly as asked. Don’t chuck in extra padding, or take short cuts. If you’re flat out, detail someone with a calm mind to do it for you. And remember that NZQA staff are human, just like you, and they too are under pressure.

If your accounting system is a bit dodgy, you will have to become honest. NZQA requires some pretty stiff accounting standards, but then, exactly how long do you intend being in business? The fly-by-night’ers are going to find it tougher, but that’s long overdue anyway.....

I believe NZQA has grown past the point where a change of Government can snuff it out. I feel that it’s time for some of the Tertiaries (and others) to stop trying to say that they are above scrutiny, become accountable like the rest of us have to be, and let’s all get in and become involved. If you don’t like it, join up, pay your dues, then agitate for change. If your viewpoint is constructive instead of destructive, and as long as your arguments have integrity, then I’m sure democracy will play its part. We are all accountable. None of us should be above scrutiny. When you go to your doctor, you trust that the medical system, with its checks and balances, has generated someone with integrity, who knows how to treat you. NZQA may not be fool-proof, but it is far better than the current scenario - no impartial checks at all.

One of the prime motivators for my NZQA application was my need for independence. I don’t want to be forced to operate solely through any of the major Institutes. Currently, I choose to work with them, and they with me, on mutually beneficial terms. I see a future where, if you are not NZQA registered, you will be unable to attract business in your own right, having to accept whatever is dished out by those who are. Since one or two of the Institutes are still of the mind-set that the person who creates, writes, and facilitates a course is the least important part of the chain, and pay fees accordingly, then total domination of the market by them will lead to mediocrity and the death of individuality, as those with the creative talent, personality and any self-esteem at all, disappear overseas. What is the quality of those who remain?

If I can ring a warning bell at this juncture, it is important that NZQA does not become just another means to protect the same old-school-tie brigade that has existed up until now - and that means that more of the smaller operators must become involved, to dilute the political waters. If it’s not already too late.

Also, NZQA gives me peer-group recognition for the courses I have created, via the course-approval process, although we must be careful that those appointed to judge course content are not themselves offering similar courses in direct competition. It is a little naive to rely on the honesty of all individuals to declare a conflict of interest - the system must be so designed as to prevent its occurrence. It shouldn’t be up to an applicant to discover -quite by chance- that a direct competitor is sitting on the panel that judges the applicant’s course, and then for the applicant to have to suggest that this might be a tad inappropriate ?.......

In conclusion, you can sit on the side-lines, either complaining or indifferent, and accept what will inevitably happen. Or you can commit yourself, accepting any current inadequacies, and help build something workable. We can all think of one or two operators who have about as much integrity as a pork chop in a synagogue and the social conscience of a dog on a croquet lawn - and yet they still get work, because their backgrounds are not open to peer group scrutiny, and unfortunately, the customers still tend to believe what they read....... Beneath the advertising blurb, the fast talk and the gleaming smile lies what? Have you ever ‘ref-checked’ your guest speaker or training contractor? I mean, go back say four or five years? And then compared the result against the advertising glitz?

Given the chance, and over time, NZQA might fix that, too, by helping to establish an awareness in the public of quality and integrity. Maybe our market will feel more tempted to look inside our own country, for a talented Kiwi who can do the job better because of their local context, before accepting (and blindly worshipping) the latest overseas whizz-kid.

My registration has been confirmed (that’s for my company). I am still going through accreditation (for me), and my some of my courses are up for approval. It’s a long process, but I believe it to be a worthy one. I will let you know how I get on!

Carpe Diem,

Steve Punter ANZIM, Dip Bus (PMER), FHRINZ
Staff Training Associates Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand. email: steve@sta.co.nz
Steve Punter 1994 All rights reserved by the author

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