Whether it’s helping to build a three-bedroom house, or dairy farming, video editing, healthcare, manufacturing or technology placements, secondary school students are now being given the chance to gain practical skills in environments outside the traditional classroom structure thanks to a range of secondary-tertiary partnerships around New Zealand.

“There is a growing demand for more skilled workers from New Zealand industries,” says Katrina Casey, Ministry of Education Deputy Secretary Sector Enablement and Support.

“Secondary-tertiary programmes provide relevant learning options for young people, encouraging them to remain in education and acquire the knowledge and skills employers and local communities need.”

Part of the Youth Guarantee initiatives, secondary-tertiary programmes involve partnerships between schools, tertiary providers, local communities and employers that provide young people in senior secondary school with better education and employment opportunities.

These programmes may be supported through funded government programmes or through local partnerships between schools and tertiary providers. The most common secondary-tertiary programme in New Zealand is that involving trades academies, which are funded by the government

Putting theory into practice

Tom Boon, CEO of Taranakipine and a firm believer in learning by doing and putting theory into practice, is sponsoring the Taranaki Futures ‘Build a Bach’ project for school students for the second year. The project is an opportunity for local secondary school students to learn skills on a live construction site, which will help them transition into work.

“We always need solid young workers who are suited to a construction and production environment and with this project I am helping students learn how to do the job,” says Boon. “At the same time this is a good way of promoting my company to young students interested in working in the industry.”

Taranakipine provided all of the timber products used to build the bach completed by 19 school students as part of their Construction and Infrastructure Vocational Pathway. Literacy and numeracy skills were woven into the practical applications students were doing on site, which meant students could earn NCEA credits as they worked.

“New Zealand’s education system recognises that for some young people a mixture of school-based learning (e.g. ‘traditional’ schooling subjects like mathematics, biology and history) and learning in technical, trades, and advanced courses by tertiary education organisations is the best combination,”
says Casey.

As at June 2018, 335 schools (45 Auckland-based) had one or more students enrolled in a secondary-tertiary programme/trades academy course.

“There is a growing demand for more skilled workers from New Zealand industries,” says Casey.

“Secondary-tertiary programmes provide relevant learning options for young people, encouraging them to remain in education and acquire the knowledge and skills employers and local communities need.”

Aligning learning to industry needs

All programmes are expected to align with vocational pathways, which provide a framework for students to show how their learning and achievement is valued in the workplace by aligning learning to the skills need for industry.

Two examples of trades academy offerings are MIT Trades Academy (South Auckland), which offers students automotive engineering, carpentry and electrical, engineering (air conditioning and refrigeration), engineering (computer-aided design), floristry, hospitality, IT and primary sector courses; and Auckland West Vocational Academy (West Auckland) covering construction and infrastructure, service industries, creative industries, primary industries, manufacturing and technology, and social and community services.

“For many students, the secondary-tertiary programme/trades academy provides their first positive learning experience,” says Casey.

“The experience outside the classroom supports engagement, providing greater purpose for learning and appreciation for achieving qualifications. Students respond well to being treated like adults – it boosts their confidence.”

Feedback on the partnerships has been positive, with the ERO report examining 15 or 24 secondary-tertiary partnerships and saying they “made a positive difference for students” and kept them engaged and learning.

Comments from education leaders in both secondary and tertiary settings were also positive, with one saying in the ERO report that the students experience the outside world but maintain the security of school. One school principal notes: “[It’s] just what they need to get over the hurdle of Level 2.”

At the end of the programmes, in addition to the educational benefits for the students, the community benefits from the baches and houses built and the practical applications that are the result of the learning: a win-win for everyone.

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