The SIT | Te Pūkenga Tertiary Academy in Queenstown is going from strength to strength, providing a tailored programme of learning for Wakatipu High School (WHS) students who may be considering a career in trades, and can make the most of the opportunity to gain a hands-on experience while also being awarded credits toward NCEA.
The partnership started in 2021 when the rapidly growing high school had limited space to develop their Trades Skills programme and approached SIT to help with a solution. The need saw the development of a workshop facility in Glenda Drive - Frankton’s industrial area - where a range of taster programmes are offered to year 11, 12 and 13 students, including: building and construction, engineering, and automotive. The collaboration has flourished and grown from four cohorts in the first year, to more than 65 students in five cohorts this year. The programme runs five days per week with each student attending seven sessions each fortnight.
Students are placed across Levels 1, 2, and 3; Academy Tutors Geoff Martin and Jacques Kemp instruct each level in projects which aim to engage and challenge the students while they learn valuable knowledge and skills which will serve them if they go onto a trades career.
WHS Careers Advisor, Linda Richards, said there is an emphasis on practical learning and applying the knowledge to real-world situations; students are able to start developing the trade skills they’ll need to succeed in their chosen field, and can use from day one when they enter the workforce. Current projects are predator traps, a flat-pack mai mai, and dog kennels. “The projects are great examples of how the Trades Skills programme encourages students to think creatively and use their skills to meet local needs,” she said. The student-built dog kennels will be able to be purchased directly from the workshop at the completion of the programme, she added.
WHS Principal, Oded Nathan visited the academy recently to see the students in action. “It’s an opportunity for the students to be off-site and hands-on which helps support their engagement.” He also commented on the quality relationships the tutors have with the students, and the quality of work being produced.
From the school’s point of view, Mr Nathan said what makes the academy work so well is how it’s run to fit in with the school’s ten-day timetable. The students are transported by bus to the Glenda Drive premises for their 60 to 90-minute classes, then they are returned to school, keeping to their schedule. By keeping to the school's timetable, the students can continue with their learning in their other classes while they explore a trades-based pathway.
“As they begin to prepare for life beyond high school, we want to provide students with opportunities for exploration, exposure and experience to help guide them in their career choices.”
Sometimes parents and students don’t want to take that risk associated with missing their other classes, while they check out career options, Mr Nathan added.
“That’s really the model that’s been the game changer. It’s enabled students to explore a vocational pathway and keep the university pathway open before they have to make that decision.”
SIT Queenstown Campus Head of Faculty, Hamish Small, said the collaborative focus from both WHS and SIT staff had accomplished a programme which has now exceeded expectations for all stakeholders involved.
“Structure wise, this is believed to be the first programme of its kind where it’s specifically tailored to the school’s needs and fits in with their standard timetable. It clearly shows what can be achieved when the learner is the focus.”