Vocational Pathways Update 2014: Successes, challenges, next steps

Publication Details

This report summarises activities and observations since the release of the Vocational Pathways in April 2013. This report has been prepared by the Ministry of Education, in consultation with the Industry Training Federation as 'co-authors' of the Vocational Pathways. We note:

  • Key resources have been developed to support the Vocational Pathways.
  • Marketing and communications activity has intensified.
  • Issues and concerns raised by stakeholders have been identified and addressed.
  • Recommended future work is outlined.

Author(s): Ministry of Education and Industry Training Federation.

Date Published: June 2014

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This report is available as a download (please refer to the 'Downloads' inset box).  For links to related publications/ information that may be of interest please refer to the 'Where to Find Out More' inset box.


Vocational Pathways support young people, along with their families, teachers, and other influences to be more informed about their learning choices – to avoid "dead-ends", and understand the consequences of their decisions in terms of their future possibilities.

The VPs deliver three main benefits for learners:

  • a sense of enhanced relevance, coherence and purpose for learning
  • better preparation for further education and employment transitions
  • exposure to a wider range of occupation and career possibilities.

There are currently five Vocational Pathways covering: Primary Industries; Construction and Infrastructure; Manufacturing and Technology; Social and Community Services; Services Industries.

A sixth pathway, for Creative Industries was launched on 30 June 2014.

The Ministry of Education has carried out a short targeted consultation with key stakeholders on the implementation of the Vocational Pathways after one year of operation.
The Vocational Pathways have become central to the Youth Guarantee initiatives: Fees-free programmes leading to National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) qualifications must align with the Vocational Pathways. Trades Academy programmes must deliver credits recommended in the Vocational Pathways. Regional Youth Guarantee networks are using the Vocational Pathways to support the development of programmes and education partnerships in the regions, to deliver coherent programmes and qualifications.

The Ministry has also analysed NZQA results data from 2012 and 2013 (pre- and post- release of the draft pathways) to identify if there has been an impact on student decision-making, and the coherence of NCEA qualifications, as a result of the Vocational Pathways. Results are very encouraging.  In 2013, around twice as many students (35,000) would have achieved a NCEA Level 2 qualification with at least one Vocational Pathway Award than in 2012 (16,000).  The number has approximately doubled for each of the five pathways.

Key resources developed to support the Vocational Pathways

Since the launch of the Vocational Pathways, several tools and resources have been developed in their wake.  These include the Vocational Profile Builder, Vocational Profiles, Vocational Pathway Awards, the Occupational Outlook 2014 reports and Smartphone apps, the Youth Guarantee Website, Vocational Pathways Booklet, Vocational Pathways Programme Guidance Booklet and New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) quality assured assessment resources. These tools and resources support families, educators and employers to raise awareness and understanding of the Vocational Pathways.

Marketing and communications activity

The Ministry, Industry Training Federation (ITF), and Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) have continued to work together on a marketing and communications strategy for the Vocational Pathways, to raise awareness and understanding in business and the wider community. The Ministry of Education and the ITF agree this is an area of focus for the remainder of 2014, since from 2015, students are likely to present to employers with Vocational Pathways Awards and Vocational Profiles. It is important that employers recognise and understand the learning undertaken by young people in areas that are relevant to those employers.

Issues and concerns raised by stakeholders

Establishing a shared language and understanding between the Ministry and ITOs around the place of the Vocational Pathways within the vocational education system is vital for the ongoing success of the initiative. The relationship between NCEA, the Vocational Pathways, and specific industry credits and qualifications, especially at foundation levels, has not always been clear.

Recommended future work

Targeted communications and marketing is required for operational staff in schools, tertiary providers and ITOs to ensure that Vocational Pathways information and programme messages are delivered clearly. The end result of this approach will mean that those with the most interaction with learners firstly are more confident in, explaining the Vocational Pathways to learners, and secondly, are better able to implement programmes based on the Pathways in their local context.

More supporting resources are being developed by the Ministry to support implementation of the Vocational Pathways in schools, TEOs and industry, these include curriculum mapping exemplars and 'model school/provider/employer' exemplars.

A full evaluation of the initiative will be conducted in 2017 by the Ministry of Education and the Industry Training Federation

Where to find out more

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