History of Funeral Services Training Trust of New Zealand

Before looking at the current situation of the Trust, it is an opportune time to examine and relfect on the formation of formal training in funeral services in New Zealand


The Vocational Training Council (VTC)

The Council was established in 1968 to carry out a wide range of functions and to make recommendations and conduct reasearch in respect of training of persons for vocations. Membership was made up of appointments from the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labour and Industry.
The objectives of the V.T.C. were to:

  • Encourage the implementation of organsied training and development schemes to ensure that New Zealand has and will have the people at all levels of employment to perform their tasks efficiently
  • Ensure that people as individuals have the opportunity to develop.
  • Raise the standards of knowledge, skills and effectiveness.
  • Encourage those directly responsible for achieving the foregoing objectives.
  • Funeral Director and Embalmer training developed rapidly during the 1970s in New Zealand

In 1974 key members of the embalming industry established the New Zealand Embalmers Training Committee which was able to access VTC funding under the Group Scheme Incentive plan to support a formal training course in embalming.
The Group Scheme concentrated on:
  • Assisting in the development of the then Central Institute of Technolocy (CIT) Courses
  • Promoting and organising
  • New developments training
  • Training for specialist areas e.g. Disaster work (this had a major benefit following the Erebus DC10 crash) and Counselling.
  • Refresher Training
  • Upgrading training for existing staff.

Industry Training Boards

In the 1971 Budget the Government gave its approval of the formation of the Industry Training Boards. The function of the training boards were the same as the V.T.C., but restricted to the particular industrial or commerial grouping.

In brief they were set up to ensure that training needs were identified and satisfied. The structure was, like the V.T.C., tripartite - representatives of employer, employee and appropriate government groups.

Funding in these early days was a mixture of Government and Industry. In the case of FSTC, New Zealand Embalmers Association (NZEA) and Funeral Directing Association of New Zealand (FDANZ) contributed equally with a larger percentage from government.


Industry Training Committee

Industry Training Committee is to all intents and purposes an Industry Training Board except that the Government Grant is half that for a normal Industry Training Board. The current level means that the Government funds available are approximately twice those previously available through the Group Scheme incentive. In addition the Committee may apply for Training Development Assistance on the same basis as an Industry Training Board.

Funeral Service Training Committee

In 1981 the VTC formally established the Funeral Service Training Committee (FSTC) to oversee training and development in the industry. The structure of the Committee was: Area of activity - on and off-job training of all personnel involved in Funeral Directing and Embalming The occupations involved would be

  • NZSOC 5920 * Undertaker and Embalmer
  • Others involved in Funeral Directing Companies particularly clerical staff.
Membership - the Funeral Service Training Committee consisted of:
  • One member appointed by the Vocational Training Council
  • One member appointed by the Department of Education
  • Two members appointed by the Funeral Directors Association of NZ Inc.
  • Two members appointed by the New Zealand Embalmers Association Inc.

All appointed members held office for a term of three calendar years, and were able to remain in office until their successor is appointed, and was eligible for reappointment Finance- the Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand and the New Zealand Embalmers Association guaranteed to jointly meet the non-government financial responsibilities of the Committee on the basis of an annual budget Rules - detailed rules following the normal VTC pattern were drafted for approval by the Committee at its first meeting. New Zealand Standard Occupational Classification Number 5920.

History of the Committee

In 1984 the FSTC was formally appointed as the Funeral Services Advisory Committee to the Central Institute of Technology (CIT).

Like most other things in life change takes place and training has been no exception. Towards the latter part of 1984 the Vocational Training Council was disbanded and government involvement on a formal basis was severed from the Funeral Service Training Committee. Government funding after a gradual reduction in the level of contributions received had been removed some time prior to this.

With this disbandment came new challenges and like new challenges ways of overcoming these had to be formulated.

In 1989 FSTC approached the member of FDANZ with a proposal for a training levy calculated on the number of Funerals directed in a year. This proposal was discussed at length and passed. This gave the Committee the support and strength to go forward and meet the ever-increasing challenges with a vigour that demonstrated to other agencies the commitment of the profession to formal and professional training.

It is worth remembering that the formation of this Committee was due entirely to the vision, input and dedication of a few very far-thinking persons who for the benefit of the whole profession progressed Funeral Service education to the formal professional level that exists today.

The Funeral Service Training Trust of New Zealand

In 1991 The Industry Training Act was introduced which established Industry Training Organisations (ITO’s) as a replacement for the defunct Industry Training Boards and Committees. As a result, The Funeral Service Training Trust of New Zealand (FSTT) was established in 1991 under the Charitable Trusts Act clause of the Act. The structure of the Trust, was almost identical to the old FSTC, but provision was made for additional industry representatives should the need arise.

Founder trustees were:

  • Francis Day (Chairman)
  • Murray Hird
  • Howard Vosper
  • Brian Hope
  • Mike Marfell-Jones
  • John Peryer

With the retirement of Howard Vosper and Murray Hird, Eion McKinnon and Stuart Wheeler replaced them as industry representatives. Ian Parker and Andrew Malcolm replaced Eion McKinnon and Stuart Wheeler respectively. Mark Pattinson and Stephen Dil replaced Brian Hope and Andrew Malcolm respectively. During this time, Dr Peter Osborne was appointed as an Educational Representative. Upon his retirement, Anne McGuire was appointed in the capacity of both Educational and Maori Representative.

The Trust continued to act as the Advisory Committee to the Central Institute of Technology (CIT) and then the Wellington Institute of Technology (WelTec) and has developed a respect and understanding from members of those institutes for their diligence and hard work.

The Industry Training Act and the Education Amendment Act brought with them new challenges and a huge workload to understand the new training initiatives of Government. The formation of Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) was where the real challenge lay. By becoming the ITO for funeral services in New Zealand the Trust assumed responsibility for all funeral training in New Zealand. However the Trust was now in a position to access funding for training programmes and for completing a total re-write of the courses to meet the requirements of registering "Unit Standards" on the Qualifications Framework.

The implications were enormous. Our qualifications became National Certificates and Diplomas, recognised throughout New Zealand and overseas.

The Trust surveyed industry, carried out a training needs analysis and developed a strategic plan outlining a five-year programme. Advisory groups were set up to develop the unit standards, debate and develop assessment, moderation, accreditation and marketing plans and to package the new units into qualifications suitable to the Qualifications Authority. This was no easy task, and the work carried out in this area by members of the Trust and advisory group members should be acknowledged.

The projects were completed within the budget schedules determined prior to commencement, and were part-funded by the Education Training & Support Agency (ETSA). All Audit requirements were fulfilled. ETSA became Skill NZ, which is now part of the Tertiary Education Commission. With each change came new rules, new changes, new funding schedules and new people. All of which has created many hours of extra work for the Trust. Since the initial work of developing unit standards and qualifications was completed the Trust has not received any Government funding. This is due principally to changes in Government policy.

The Trust established a Secretariat in Wellington in 1995. This was handled by Mrs Joan Sawkins in a very professional manner. Upon Joan’s retirement, Mrs Fiona Gillespie was appointed Secretary of the Trust during the middle of 2003.

The ongoing work of the Trust in developing and presenting high quality seminars and workshops to the funeral and allied professions continues to be a major focus.

While work of the Trust carried out over the last few years has been challenging, frustrating, interesting and rewarding, it is by no means over. The on-going responsibility of the Trust as a Industry Training Organisation brings with it a commitment to implement and review current and future training modules and programmes to reflect and meet the demands of industry and society.