Launched at the opening of the New Zealand International Education Conference (#NZIEC) on Thursday, the Skills Lab is an online tool showcasing 20-minute projects for industry professionals to quickly skill up and learn about the wider industry.
“The Skills Lab is a great new resource for smaller institutions who don’t have a lot of experience in this complex sector and will be particularly useful to newcomers to the industry,” said ENZ chief executive Grant McPherson in a statement.
“We got a very clear message that we needed to really relook at how we were going about industry development”
There are currently 55 projects featured on the Skills Lab on topics including market research, competitor analysis, how to handle complaints on social media and best practice for using interpreters, with more expected to be released over time.
ENZ general manager of business development, Clive Jones, said the initiative was conceived after feedback in ENZ’s annual survey highlighted a significant need from providers as well as a desire to push New Zealand’s innovation focus.
“We’ve put a lot of effort into helping providers build their own capability, but the approaches we tend to use are pretty traditional. We have seminars and we have conferences. In hindsight we were having limited impact,” he told The PIE News.
“We got a very clear message that we needed to really relook at how we were going about industry development.”
Jones said the Skills Lab puts particular emphasis on short courses that don’t require requisite knowledge across each of the projects that “people can snack on”.
Robbie Pickford, international director of one of the initial testing institutions, Takapuna Grammar School, said the Skills Lab was already proving beneficial for her institution to learn about about new markets.
“I’ve been in the industry for a long time and there hasn’t been that go-to place that I could get intel about the market, the country or the culture,” she told The PIE News.
The Skills Lab also encourages industry collaboration, with users able to upload their own information and expertise.
“There’ll be more and more information available for the sector. It keeps us growing and thinking towards the future,” Pickford said.
According to Kirstyn Mawdsley, director international of St Hilda’s Collegiate School, which also took part in the soft launch, the Skills Lab would be of particular benefit to New Zealand’s regional and smaller providers.
“I’ve been in the industry for a long time and there hasn’t been that go-to place that I could get intel”
“We don’t have the same budget available as bigger programmes, and often we’re working in very small departments. Trying to keep up to date with everything and find professional development opportunities is quite complicated. The Skills Lab helps with that and also alleviates the distance barrier,” she said.
The Skills Lab was one of several initiatives announced during NZIEC, as the country looks to build sustainably after the successes of 2015.
During his opening address, McPherson reflected on last year and commented on New Zealand’s recent performance.
“2015 was a great year. 2016 is a good one but there are a few bumps on the way,” he added, referencing the recent decline in numbers, partly due to a recent change to student visas for Indian students.
“ENZ is serious about our role to create a sustainable international education industry,” he assured the audience.
NZIEC took place August 18-19 in Auckland. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the 2016 conference had a record 650 attendees.