Fit-for-purpose education and training

Education and training are essential to provide employees starting their career, or who are already working in tourism and hospitality, with the relevant skills and knowledge to succeed.

There are a range of formal qualifications, as well as on-the-job training, currently available to people wanting to work in the industry. However, there is scope to enhance this offering and ensure employees are consistently supported as they enter and progress in the industry. Having an education and training system designed for current and future needs will ensure that employees are better supported and recognised for the skills and knowledge they have developed (whether through formal or on-the-job training).

Public consultation on the draft Better Work Action Plan underscored that getting education and training right for the tourism and hospitality industry is a key priority for both businesses and learners. We heard that the current system has not been delivering for either of these groups, with too many institutions offering too wide an array of qualifications. Unlike other industries, there is no formal mechanism for recognising the skills gained while working in the industry, despite a general acceptance that tourism and hospitality jobs equip workers with a wide range of valuable, practical, and ‘soft’ skills that can translate well into other industries.

This Tirohanga Hou was ranked the top priority during consultation. People observed that a more fit-for-purpose tourism and hospitality education system would:

  • lead to a higher retention of workers through continued development and education
  • provide value to workers and employers through increasing knowledge
  • help to professionalise the industry and align it more closely in this regard with other major export industries in New Zealand.

We heard clearly that the industry wants to see an improved micro-credentials offering (stackable courses that focus on key skills that can be used to build a qualification) and use of apprenticeship models to enable workers to gain credentials while working in the industry. A system to recognise skills across employers and industries is important to support continued career progression and development within the industry, as well as people’s ability to step between industries. Clear progression pathways will help make tourism and hospitality a more attractive career choice and support greater recognition with stronger reputational branding.

An improved fit-for-purpose education and training system for tourism would benefit the workforce by:

  • supporting continuous improvement/development within demonstrable career pathways
  • capturing and recognising transferable and soft skills gained while working in the industry
  • allowing greater flexibility as to where and when education occurs
  • offering pathways for employees at multiple steps during their work experience, including vertical and horizontal pathways
  • supporting an increase of labour supply at the entry level.

Another key point of feedback was a strong desire for education to be more industry-led, to ensure that those entering the industry are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to meet consumer and employer demands. Many stressed the importance of partnerships between educational institutions and industry. They also emphasised the value of real-life work experience alongside formal education.

"The industry knows what it needs, it is up to the institutions to fulfil that need, to tell the right story to attract the right people, and to set the right expectations."

Online response from a tourism business
Public consultation, August 2022

Others pointed out that under current frameworks, simply finding the channel for this engagement has been a challenge.

"The sheer number of institutions and complexities makes it almost impossible to navigate or influence for better programmes and outcomes for the tourism sector."

Regional Tourism New Zealand
Public consultation, August 2022

The Leadership Group also recognise the industry has a role to play – it is important for tourism and hospitality businesses to ‘lean in’ and offer opportunities for students to gain experience while they are considering their options, and/or as part of their formal education/training. Current practice is mixed, with some businesses doing it well, while some education providers struggle to find options in some locations.

The key to success, therefore, is to ensure there is a clear, effective channel to enable the tourism and hospitality industry to engage with the education system.

While the changes arising out of the Reform of Vocational Education present a new system to become familiar with, the changes also offer a valuable opportunity to contribute to, and shape, a fit-for-purpose tourism education offering that meets the needs of the industry in years to come.

Engaging secondary school students

Before students decide to go into tertiary study and the world of work, they are exposed to a range of subjects at secondary school. The development of a new NCEA Tourism Achievement Standard at NCEA levels 2 and 3 provides a significant opportunity to change the perceptions of a career in tourism amongst school students and their influencers (parents/guardians). The Achievement Standard subjects recognise the value of tourism as an area of learning and will likely broaden the pipeline for learners coming into tertiary tourism courses and/or entering the tourism workforce at different levels.

As part of this transition, schools nationwide will need to choose if they will offer the new Tourism subject and, if so, prepare for this. Critical to how this plays out will be how industry engages with schools to promote and support learning, for example enabling schools to bring the learning to life through visits to tourism businesses. A proactive approach will support schools as they decide how the subject is embraced and taught.

Reform of vocational education

The Reform of Vocational Education (RoVE) is giving rise to a major structural shift in the way vocational education and training is delivered. Key to understanding how the tourism industry can interact with this process and get the outcomes it needs is understanding how the new structure differs from the old.

Significant resources have been invested into RoVE, which aims to create a strong, unified, and sustainable vocational education system fit for the future. Under RoVE, a number of organisations were set up, including 2 which will better support the development and delivery of education and training in the tourism and hospitality industries – Ringa Hora and Te Pūkenga.

Ringa Hora is 1 of 6 Workforce Development Councils, with responsibility for service industries including tourism, hospitality, and travel. It leads the development of new qualifications to meet learning needs as identified by industry. A key element is working with New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) on standard settings and developing a process to amend qualifications in line with industry needs. Ringa Hora will also focus on prioritising traditionally underserved learners and those needing to retrain.

Te Pūkenga brings together on-the-job, on campus, and online vocational education and training (through combining industry training organisations, Institutes of Technology, and Polytechnics) to create a unified, sustainable network of regionally accessible providers. This will ensure consistency in the delivery of programmes, learning, and qualifications across the industry and country. Some Universities, Wānanga, and Private Training Establishments will also provide vocational education programmes alongside Te Pūkenga.

RoVE aims to deliver a range of improvements to the vocational education system through:

  • Vocational education and training that is learner-centred and industry-led rather than the previous fragmented system.
  • Nationally consistent programmes of learning and qualifications, allowing for flexibility across qualifications, industries, and within/across regions.
  • Efficiencies for industry to work with one national body to develop, service, and update programmes of learning and qualifications to ensure the changing needs of the industry can be met.

Initiative 2: Strengthened partnership between Ringa Hora and the tourism industry

Initiative 2 – Stronger partnership between the key peak industry bodies and Ringa Hora

Develop a mechanism [1] to strengthen the partnership which will build on current engagement between Ringa Hora and Tourism Industry Aotearoa, Hospitality New Zealand, and the Restaurant Association of New Zealand.

Outcomes sought

The mechanism will ensure regular industry engagement and stronger input into the design of courses taught by education and training institutions. This process will support the mapping of future skills required by the industry and will support Ringa Hora (in partnership with stakeholders) to amend or develop new qualifications to meet this need.

A formal partnership is proposed which will build on existing relationships between Ringa Hora and key industry bodies. It will strengthen engagement to ensure the tourism and hospitality industry informs the shape of future training, while also meeting the educational needs of underserved populations.

Mirroring the approach taken by a small number of other industries, we propose a more direct partnership between Ringa Hora and the 3 peak industry bodies, Tourism Industry Aotearoa, Hospitality New Zealand, and Restaurant Association New Zealand. This will build on existing engagement between these parties to build a cohesive work programme that serves the educational needs of the tourism and hospitality industries. These key partners have been identified as they represent the industry and are well-placed to inform education priorities and programmes. Other key stakeholders will also be involved in the design through Ringa Hora, including Te Pūkenga, unions, employees/learners, TEC, NZQA, New Zealand Māori Tourism and Regional Tourism Organisations. Participation by other delivery groups (such as the Tourism Teachers Association New Zealand) will also be sought.

Input in the initial stages of the partnership will be provided by the ITP Leadership Group, informed by the Better Work Action Plan. This will ensure that the rich learnings and observations that have come through the Better Work ITP process are not lost.

Initiative 3: Design new tourism qualifications

Initiative 3 – Design/develop a new tourism qualification(s)

Ringa Hora to engage with industry, the Better Work Leadership Group, employees/learners, and other stakeholders to identify needs and build new, or adapt from existing, tourism qualifications and micro-credentials.

Outcomes sought

A fit-for-purpose learning programme that has transferrable elements from (and to) other qualifications. The qualifications may be made up of micro-credentials that, when combined, contribute to an over-arching qualification and/or can be earned as part of on-the-job learning (including apprenticeships), recognising skills gained whilst working.

Micro-credentials enable the seasonal and local delivery of education and training programmes and allow ease of movement/transfer between regions and between qualifications. They also offer a way to earn and learn at the same time.

Once this mechanism is in place, this will support the design and development of new tourism qualifications. Topics of focus would reflect industry priorities as well as the objectives of the Better Work Action Plan, ensuring future tourism learners are being well equipped not just for the work of today, but also of tomorrow.

Suggested topics for the new qualification are listed below, reflecting what we heard through consultation, but the final details will be for Ringa Hora to develop in partnership with industry.

Suggested topics for micro-credentials leading to a qualification include:

  • Biodiversity and conservation
  • New Zealand history
  • Mātauranga Māori
  • Tikanga Māori
  • Te reo Māori
  • Business management
  • Leadership development
  • Problem solving
  • Customer service
  • Customer management
  • Systems design
  • Innovation
  • Technology literacy
  • Story-telling
  • Guiding
  • Communication
  • Health and safety

Further possible actions are likely to be identified and there will be ongoing work to develop and refine options that ensure students/workers are getting the best opportunities and support across the spectrum of education including secondary, tertiary, and micro-credentials. 

Opportunities will be explored to support the industry to provide work experience for students at all levels of their tourism education, starting at secondary level, to give young people meaningful exposure to the range of career opportunities within the industry.


  1. Section 25, Education (Services Workforce Development Council) Order 2021. [Back to text]
Last updated: 28 June 2023