When 42 NZ Transport Agency staff graduated with a brand new qualification in regulatory practice recently, they marked the start of a wave of positive change that is transforming the government regulatory sector.

The qualifications are being facilitated by the Government Regulatory Practice Initiative, which was launched in response to a 2014 Productivity Commission report into regulatory institutions and practices. The goal of the initiative is to professionalise the regulatory workforce in New Zealand.

Skills consulted with 23 government agencies to create the qualifications, as well as a high-tech online Learning Management System (LMS), for a world first in regulatory compliance training. As a member of the initiative Skills is now promoting and enabling their uptake.

The first qualification off the line was the New Zealand Certificate in Regulatory Compliance (Core Knowledge) (Level 3), which provides a basis for understanding in this area. These were the certificates being presented to the NZ Transport Agency graduates.

It’s the start of a new world of regulatory capabilities across New Zealand. From customs officers, to maritime investigators, to traffic wardens, these qualifications will have a broad impact on society. One graduate in Wellington mentioned it has helped her to understand the impact that regulation has on members of the public, on top of the deeper awareness of her work at the NZ Transport Agency and its relevance. Another in Palmerston North praised the Learning Management System for making it very easy to study around other commitments.

The NZ Transport Agency became an early adopter as part of its wider strategy to achieve regulatory excellence. The qualifications assure the agency that its people meet national practice standards, and also provides them with sector-wide recognition of their skills and knowledge.

Incoming Director of Transport Access Delivery, Robert Brodnax, congratulated the graduates on their role in piloting the qualification and ushering in a new era.

They were the guinea pigs of a brand new qualification – one which continued to be tweaked as they were working through it. Sally Evers and Kharen Hope from Skills were there to see their hard work on it pay off. It wasn’t an easy task and all those involved – graduates, Skills staff, and others – were thanked for their patience.

Particular thanks came from Keith Manch, Chief Executive of Maritime NZ, and member of the Secretariat for the Government Regulatory Practice Initiative. “You are part of something bigger”, he said to the graduates in Wellington, “For the first time, we are seeing regulators considered as a profession in itself, leading to the creation of its own qualifications. We are witnessing a ‘sea change’ – maritime pun intended”

This was echoed by Judy Kavanagh at the Palmerston North event. Judy played an instrumental role in the Productivity Commission of New Zealand’s inquiry into Regulatory Institutions and Practices which started this process. She emphasised the need to have regulators recognised as professionals, which these qualifications are doing.

The Core Knowledge Certificate is the first of six new qualifications. The two Level 4 Qualifications, in operational knowledge and practice, are scheduled to be ready towards the end of 2017.

Despite holding very diverse roles, the NZ Transport Agency graduates worked together with a dedicated learner support person to ensure that everyone, without exception, achieved the Level 3 qualification – resulting in a 100% completion rate.

“It is with help from committed learner support people that Skills, and the whole initiative, can ensure these qualifications become a success across New Zealand” said Tony McKenna, Skills sector manager for Local Government who has led the government regulatory practice campaign on behalf of Skills.

These were the first of many graduations to come, he stressed, as the group of organisations who became early adopters of the first Level 3 qualification reach the end of their pilot programmes. It is the close of chapter one for the qualifications, but chapter two is soon to begin.

Find out more about Government Regulatory Practice Qualifications offered through Skills.

To get in touch with Tony McKenna and see how you or your organisation can become enrolled, either email him on tonym@skills.org.nz or call on 027 291 1259