Otago Polytechnic is introducing a tool that empowers learners to develop work-ready capabilities that employers are looking for – complementary to their academic achievements.

Several schools, including Otago Girls’ High School, Otago Boys’ High School and Tokomairiro High School, are piloting a secondary-level version of the tool, titled “i am capable”.

The digital portal provides a wide-ranging set of self-assessment resources to help users develop “soft” skills, which range from problem-solving to critical thinking, independence and resilience.

Significantly, “i am capable” is designed to be embedded in academic programmes to provide a more rounded educational outcome.

Otago Polytechnic has started rolling out “i am capable” to its teaching staff, who will closely engage with learners.

“This programme is a result of us acting on strong signals from industry,” Otago Polytechnic Chief Executive Phil Ker says.

“Our research process has had a very high level of employer engagement. This is what employers across multiple vocational areas want, and our offering is nuanced to those differing needs.”

Ker, who has been vocal about the Government’s potential reforms to the industry training sector, says the tool is an example of the sort of innovation his institution is renowned for, and may lose if the reforms see a more centralised leadership model emerge.

“Otago Polytechnic continually monitors educational trends – and then invests in programmes to address such needs,” he says.

“Any new ITP system must allow such flexibility.”

Users of “i am capable” can range from secondary school pupils, to tertiary learners, to professionals in the workplace, as well as employers.

“Our ‘i am capable’ programme has identified 25 capabilities most valued by employers,” Andy Kilsby, Director Employability, Otago Polytechnic, says.

“Those 25 capabilities are then narrowed down to 10 priority areas, as identified through extensive research with employers and stakeholders, and applied to different learning programme areas.

“For example, there are capability criteria for verbal, written and visual communication, cultural competence, organisational skills and leadership, among others.

“Importantly, they are all underpinned by our Learner Capability Framework. Based on international and national educational and industry research, this is also informed by an ongoing research programme driven by Otago Polytechnic.”

Easy to use, “i am capable” enables learners to build an employability profile online; they can then share their profile with potential employers, thus providing an all-important window for employers seeking evidence of 21st-century transferable skills.

It also serves as an important mechanism for educators who, in close collaboration with learners, are able to identify strengths as well as provide guidance and feedback to address areas where further work is required.

Schools’ pilot programme

Several schools, including Otago Girls’ High School, Otago Boys’ High School and Tokomairiro High School, are already piloting a secondary-level version of “i am capable”.

Richard Hall, Rector of Otago Boys’ High School, welcomes the initiative.

“The New Zealand curriculum document specifies that students will be confident, connected, actively involved lifelong learners. For Otago Boys’ High School, the chance to focus on such attributes – particularly in an assessment driven educational system – was too good to pass up.

“With ‘i am capable”, we are hoping to create a strong set of credible skills that will mean our leavers will be sought after by tertiary institutions and employers.

“And once they are in the workforce, they will have the advantage of expertise in the 25 learner capabilities.”

Rowan Taigel, Deputy Principal and teacher in charge of the pilot programme at Otago Girls’ High School, says “i am capable” provides a credible, evidence-based platform for students to evaluate and develop their 21st-century capabilities.

“The portfolio provides both students and employers with tangible proof of the intangible qualities and capabilities most sought after in the modern workplace, and in this way, it is invaluable.”

Greg Lewis, Tumuaki/Principal of Russley School, Christchurch, says the “i am capable” pilot has enabled a “wonderful opportunity to craft and align the education context through a capability lens”.

The ability to collate evidence to support individual and school-wide trends for future development is “fantastic”, Greg says.

“We love that ‘i am capable’ focuses on the development of leadership, teacher and support staff capabilities; everyone who works at our place.”

Learn more about “i am capable”


  1. After a brief look at this resource, it seems to be a very welcome addition. It considers a range of valuable competencies and offers good feedback loops to support the development of competencies. How it is reported is not clear but it seems very useful. The document “Towards defining 21st-century competencies for Ontario” states that the following categories of 21st-century competencies have been shown have measurable benefits in multiple areas of life:
    • critical thinking and problem-solving
    • innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship
    • communication
    • collaboration from teamwork
    • a growth mindset (metacognition/learning to learn, perseverance and resilience)
    • local, global, and digital citizenship
    Many of these seem to be covered in this program.

  2. What a valuable resource for the Education Industry as well as the wider community! Otago Polytechnic has always been pro-active in this area. I had presented a paper at the 2017 NZABE Conference there on ” Exploring the needs of the 21st century Tertiary learner” Rosita Thomas , Jill Dawson.


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