Practice Note 1. Developing an effective governance framework

July 2011: One of the first lessons to be learnt from the early qualifications reviews in 2011 is the importance of an effective and representative decision-making structure.

Although the number of qualifications in each sector under review varies enormously – for example English for Speakers of other Languages (ESOL) has 274, food and hospitality 153, religious studies 77, pharmacy just five – and each review is distinctive, some common themes are emerging.

Get the right people involved

Qualifications are being reviewed in clusters of similar qualifications to ensure they meet the strategic needs of industry, employers and the wider community. This means a diverse range of people need to be involved. The stakeholders in any review will include representatives from employers and industry, education providers from small private training establishments to large institutes of technology and polytechnics, community representatives, Maori and NZQA.

NZQA has appointed a sector relationship manager to every review. As these people are involved in many reviews, they can share experience from other reviews and, if necessary, provide advice on who should be involved.

These mandatory reviews are different to traditional qualification reviews in that the focus is broader and focused on a suite rather than individual qualifications. Thus they will often involve different people. The people involved must be respected and able to make decisions on behalf of their sector.

Use an industry training organisation or an established sector group to initiate the process

Education providers and standard-setting bodies, including industry training organisations and NZQA's National Qualifications Services and Maori Qualifications Services, have been involved in hosting reviews to date. The review of non-university pharmacy qualifications, for example, is being organised by the Pharmacy Industry Training Organisation (PITO). PITO convened a steering group with representatives from key pharmacy organisations to give broad strategic leadership and to ensure an open and transparent process.

With just three education providers delivering five level 3 and level 5 pharmacy technician and pharmacy assistant qualifications, it is a relatively straight-forward review, according to PITO National Manager Alasdair McIntosh. However, he says careful consideration was given to the process to ensure that the best possible qualifications and pathways between qualifications will be developed. The review is making good progress with the right players at the table in a very open and transparent process.

In the religious studies sector, a well-established sector group took responsibility for guiding the review and appointed a sub-committee to conduct it. Michael Hansen, Director of Education Services for Laidlaw College, a large provider of Christian, theological and ministry education, says that previously, proliferation of qualifications had not seemed to be a problem. However, now that the sector is examining its qualifications, it can see a lot of commonalities and opportunities for rationalisation.

A facilitator may help

For the first time, in many sectors, stakeholders from education and industry who have often operated quite independently are coming together to agree on a suite of qualifications that really meet the needs of learners and employers. This is both a challenge and an opportunity.

In the hospitality sector, for example, a couple of preliminary meetings convened by the Hospitality Standards Institute established a group with delegates from industry, institutes of technology and polytechnics and PTEs to plan and oversee the review. This 18-member group appointed a facilitator to help them develop their plan.

Experience to date has shown that participants are enjoying working together to achieve an important and useful common goal.

Create an effective governance framework

As the collective decision-making and broad cross-sector focus is new, the establishment of a clear governance framework which supports effective decision-making is critical.

Some form of overarching representative group needs to be set up to guide and steer the review and to make the decisions required to ensure industry needs are met and enduring qualifications developed.

This group will plan the review and appoint a working group/s to actually conduct the review and down the line develop the qualifications.

This means the workload can be shared and people do not have to be involved all the way through the review. Those who have a big picture perspective of the needs of the sector are likely to be involved in the early stages of a review and on a governance group.

It is important to approach the review with an open mind and that qualifications are not developed ahead of the review. Clarifying what is really needed takes time.

Generally, members of the governance group will come from senior management in industry or education or they may be leaders in the community. One group included a local council member with workforce development expertise. Those with detailed knowledge of the subject or qualification development are more likely to be involved in the actual qualification development.

Publicise the review widely

Making sure as many people as possible know about the review will help ensure its long-term success. Several reviews have established blogs or put information up on a website. PITO widely publicised its review through pharmacy media and organisations. It set up an online survey seeking views about the skills required for pharmacy technicians and assistants, the training delivery methods that work best and the most suitable qualification structure. This allowed all interested parties to have a say.

Three advisory groups, set up to cover education providers, practising pharmacists and practising technicians, reviewed the survey findings and reported back to the steering group.

“We are going back to a blank canvas,” Mr McIntosh said. “Our guiding principle is that if we are to create new qualifications that meet the needs of the industry and work for providers, they must be evidence-based and everyone in the sector must be able to have input.”

When details of the proposed pharmacy qualifications are resolved, they will go out for consultation. The whole process, as with all reviews, is taking about a year.

Check the progress of any review

A review tracking spreadsheet is available to track the progress of each review. The spreadsheet shows when the review started, the number of qualifications involved and when the review plan and the review itself are due. It also lists the key contact person for each review.

Read about the Changes to qualifications in ESOL.

Read about the food and hospitality qualifications review.


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