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The Enterprise Training Programme is dead. In place is a new scheme that will draw on a network of 14 regional partners to identify and provide business capability-building for small-and medium-scale enterprises with partial funding provided by the Government.

By Louise Blockley

The recent scrapping of NZTE’s Enterprise Training Programme (ETP), which covered capability assessment, workshops, seminars and follow-up training, signals a significant change of Government approach. It means fully funded training and development under this umbrella is history, but doors are opening for more private training providers.

NZTE and the Foundation for Research Science and Technology are creating a joint network of 14 regional partners to provide small businesses with information, funding, training and development.

Training previously delivered under the ETP will no longer be fully Government funded but businesses deemed to have “growth and innovation potential and a commitment to development” by the regional partner may be eligible for a partial voucher. The voucher will be provided directly to the business to use at a course of its choice from a list of registered providers. Voucher amounts will be capped and each region will be given an allocation. Details are still to be finalised but partial vouchers could be up to $5000 per firm.

Each partner organisation will be funded by NZTE and the foundation to employ staff with business development skills and R&D expertise.

SUITABLE TRAINING

Euan Purdie, NZTE’s business development manager, says partners will be responsible for co-ordinating suitable training and information services in their region, assessing local businesses and directing them to courses, advisers, information and other services that will meet their development needs. “On behalf of the foundation there will be partners that provide R&D advice and manage R&D investments and the foundation’s programme,” he says.

At the time of writing responses to an RFP for regional partners were being assessed. Potential partners could be regional chambers, EDAs and other existing organisations or consortiums of various groups.

“Various responses have come back from various regions and we have identified our preferred respondents. In the next couple of weeks I will be travelling through New Zealand with Hamish Campbell from the foundation and discussing proposals they have put to us and looking to form a contract with them,” Purdie says.

The ETP, which a range of organisations had been contracted by NZTE to run, ceased on July 1. The NZTE-funded Biz Information service for businesses will remain as an 0800 telephone service, but 29 separate “walk-in” centres around New Zealand will close their doors. An interim scheme providing support of up to $250 was available for training undertaken to the end of September. Purdie says NZTE is aiming to have regional networks operating in October.

REASONS FOR CHANGE

The changes are driven by findings from both the Government’s Review of Business Assistance and an evaluation by the Ministry of Economic Development of NZTE’s training and information services. While the MED’s report found a high level of client satisfaction with the ETP, concerns that private providers were not able to enter this training market sparked the plans for a new model.

The official reasoning for the changes is outlined by NZTE as a wish to:

  • Improve business and management capability development in SMEs, which will help drive productivity gains and greater profitability.
  • Reduce fragmentation by providing better co-ordinated access to Government business assistance, and so lower transaction costs for businesses.
  • Drive quality and innovation in the provision of training and advisory services, while also providing businesses greater choice in these services.
  • Create a network that will act as a filter for the foundation and NZTE and refer firms with high growth, innovation and internationalisation potential for more intensive engagement.

“When the evaluation came from the MED, some of the recommendations were that we have been crowding out the private sector by having the Enterprise Training Programme. Another was that there was still a sense that they needed some support for businesses to get training and capability development and, with that, they suggested why don’t we come up with vouchers to allow people to get access to capability training,” says Purdie.

“One of the key strengths of the Enterprise Training Programme was that a business undertook a capability assessment, at which point the training provider would make a recommendation on their training needs. To me, that was a fairly critical part of the relationship.” Purdie is adamant that the changes are not designed to trim the 20082009 $8.5 million Enterprise Training budget or the $1.3 million Biz Services budget – part of an overall budget for development of providers of training and information of $13.7 million. “The same pot of money that has been expended through enterprise training will be expended through the assessment work and the vouchers. So there is no reduction in that level of funding,” he says.

The RFP document defines what the long-term aims are. “In three years’ time we will see more capability in these businesses. They will have a relationship with the regional partner, their business is growing, their revenue is increasing, they are employing more people and, again, it is a relationship between regional partners and their communities, but also between those groups and two arms of Government -the foundation and NZTE.

“I have been very excited by the opportunity, very enthused. It has taken a while to get there, we have worked long and hard at it. But I think it is going to have terrific potential.” [END]

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