Southern Institute of Technology’s recently released Economic Impact Report (EIR) produced by BERL - Business and Economic Research Limited, highlights the significant role the institution has on Southland’s economy, both in generating gross domestic product (GDP) and employment; the report outlines the wider benefits – social, cultural, environmental and the intrinsic value of education – which should also be measured as contributing to the overall well-being of Southland communities.
The report, released last week, focused on SIT’s Southland campuses, which in the last five years (2018-2022) have contributed $508.5 million in GDP to Southland’s economy. Per year, SIT’s spend on employment and its operations – not including student spend - equates to $65.4 million in (direct, indirect and induced) spend.
Acting Chief Executive, Daryl Haggerty, said although he knew the value of SIT, it was somewhat of an unknown quantity; overall, the report has confirmed his view of the institute’s importance to Southland.
“Almost everyone in our community has a connection with SIT, from being a past or present student, staff member, business, or community group,” he said.
Over ten years (2012-2022) SIT had seen a 23% overall increase in domestic and international student enrolments; most recently, in 2022, there were 10,684 students who supported the Southland economy through paying for rent, food and other goods and services. Direct, indirect and induced student spending totals $91.7 million annually in Southland.
Mr Haggerty said the individual student numbers (and the equivalent full-time student number of 4,768) show the impact SIT is having on local communities - with high rates of employment or further study, as well as high levels of student satisfaction.
Altogether, the combined total spend of SIT and its students is around $157.1 million annually, generating $101.7 million in GDP - around 1.5% of the region’s total GDP.
SIT is also one of Southland’s larger employers; in 2022, they employed 372 full-time equivalent staff (FTEs), with a total of 415 FTEs across all their campuses. Combined with indirect and
induced employment, the total is 1,131 FTEs which is around 2.2% of total employed FTEs in the region.
The report stated that SIT’s total economic impact – a combined total of GDP and employment figures (FTEs) - represented a significant contribution from a single organisation in the Southland regional economy.
Beyond the numbers, SIT also produced a wider economic impact for the province, which included graduate outcomes and the Zero Fees Scheme (ZFS). These impacts were seen in employment opportunities, local skilled worker retention, employment in areas of skill shortages, and opportunities for mature students.
“The SIT Zero fees scheme has created significant, economic and social benefits to the Southland community since its inception,” Mr Haggerty said, pointing to the twenty years of data indicating growth of student numbers (EFTS), beginning in 2001, and corresponding with the start of the scheme.
The ZFS was significant for mature students, who already had a career and/or a tertiary-level qualification; SIT provided the opportunity to upskill to higher qualifications or retrain for a new career at minimal cost, these students being ineligible for the government Fees Free scheme.
SIT contributes positively to workforce retention in a region which struggles to attract people, with a significant proportion of graduates (40%) working in Southland.
Mr Haggerty noted many SIT students worked on a casual basis while studying; once graduated, they went on to secure permanent employment.
The EIR also touched on the international student effect on regional tourism, acknowledging SIT’s ability to attract international students to Southland, who would then spend on travel around the region and New Zealand, buying goods and services on their journeys. Whilst there was a lack of specific data for Southland, the reports’ authors said evidence from other similar studies suggested their contribution to the economy was too important to ignore and further research was required.
Mr Haggerty said pre-Covid, (2019) there were 1,697 international students enrolled at SIT - 808 equivalent full-time students (EFTS), “who have diversified our community and added real value, culturally and economically.
The border restrictions which occurred during Covid have emphasised the importance of access to international students and skilled people for our economic prosperity,” he added.
The report summarised SIT as an anchor institution in Southland – SIT’s presence is important for the well-being of the region’s population – and that in the future, SIT would also feature as a valuable driver of the region’s economic recovery.
Mr Haggerty agreed, concluding, “My view is that SIT will continue to be a valuable, evolving and locally relevant training provider into the future as we integrate into Te Pūkenga.