Kyah Jones

At senior prize giving in Sacred Heart Girls’ College in New Plymouth this year, a new award was handed out, and coming as a huge surprise to the winner. Kyah Jones became the first recipient of the Prime Minister’s Vocational Excellence Award at her school.

She said, “It was a huge surprise. I was in shock because I don’t really like going up on stage in front of everyone.” But she went up and got her award which included a $2,000 prize.

The inaugural Prime Minister’s Vocational Excellence Awards aim to raise the status of vocational education and recognise the achievements of students.

Leader of Learning for Pathways at Sacred Heart, Warwick Foy, who nominated Kyah was pleased she received the award. “It was time to celebrate other types of success.”

By term 3 this year, Kyah had completed a Level 3 qualification, the New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing in Health Assistance, through Careerforce’s Gateway programme. It’s a 70 credit NZQA recognised qualification.

“I’ve done this programme because I wanted to go further in what I want to do when I finish school. I want to be a paramedic,” Kyah shared.

“I enjoyed Gateway and think I succeeded the most in this subject this year. I got to do a placement where I helped the elderly. I helped a lot in their activities and in preparing their tea.”

“They tell you a lot about their life and they also give you advice on your life. I really loved it.”

She is now certain of her career pathway. “I’ve finished school, so now my plan is to do nursing to get more background that will help me for paramedicine.” She said the $2,000 prize will go towards her studies.

Warwick said that it was an easy pick nominating Kyah. “She completed her New Zealand certificate in record time, she had a great placement, she is a star. Her teachers helped her along, but she worked really hard and made some good choices.”

He is pleased that this award idea, that originated from a Careers and Transition Education (CATE) Association meeting, had gained such momentum. He said any and all career pathways need to be supported.

“If someone wants to be a hairdresser, an airline pilot, or be the prime minister, that’s great. We don’t say, ‘you’re better than that or you can’t be that’.”

There is still a societal perception that university pathways are superior to trades and practical pathways. This is simply not the case. These occupations are increasingly technical and complex, and we need smart people doing them. Warwick is adamant that, “if that’s what they [young people] want to do, then let’s support them.”

He congratulates and recognises Kyah on her achievement. To Kyah, he says, “You are an amazing person and a great role model to young wahine that they can do and achieve anything.”

For more information on Careerforce Gateway programmes, go to


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