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Students Start Digging Their Future

High School Students Start Digging Their Future

In a unique joint venture with Tai Poutini Polytechnic, Aranui High School students will be able to prepare themselves for a career in the civil construction and mining industries when the country's first ever school-based training course for heavy machine operators begins next year.

Using computer simulation, students will be able to practice operational skills on a variety of heavy machines whilst still in the classroom. They will then progress to real machines at Tai Poutini Polytechnic's Christchurch Digger School, which runs with the support of CPIT.

The National Academy of Civil Construction and Mining - Aranui will be launched on Monday September 17 at Aranui High School in Christchurch. It will be based in a purpose-designed area at the School, and will eventually consist of six or more chairs where students can practice operational skills on a variety of heavy machines through a simulated computer software programme.

"We are very excited about our involvement in this new partnership in which, together with a tertiary provider and industry, we meet the needs of learners in such an important area. It's a model of collaboration which is responsive to the need to develop a seamless education model for the 21st century," says Aranui High School Principal John Rohs.

The venture is the brainchild of the Extractive Industries Training Organisation CEO Tom Reece.

"There are significant shortages of skilled labour in these industries, partly because
the average age of staff is now over 50, so we're very keen to train more young people, " he says.

"This is a great opportunity for practical entrance-level training which will lead immediately to jobs, or advancement to higher level qualifications, and management in a growing area."

"It's been found overseas that training through the use of simulators is a very effective way to learn to operate large machinery worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each, before going onto the real thing. This course is going to be really attractive to young people because of the way it's structured with a strong practical emphasis.

John Wills, CEO of InfraTrain, is equally enthusiastic. "If the country's roading plans are to come to fruition, we need to lift our game considerably as far as training is concerned," he said. He also noted that the labour force is now changing, with growing numbers of women operating heavy machinery. "Some employers have said that they prefer female operators, because they take better care of the machinery," he added.

Tai Poutini Polytechnic began its Digger School in Reefton in 2003, and now operates five around the country, with more planned. CEO Paul Wilson believes that the National Academy is a logical step to encourage better career planning for students.

"They can try themselves at the Academy to see whether they have the aptitude and interest to make a career in civil construction or mining. If they find it's what they want to do, then there are opportunities for further training, both on and off-job. If they find it's not what they want to do, they can move on to other areas of work. It's a real win-win, and it is just the sort of collaboration that current policy encourages," he says.

It is expected that the first intake will begin in February 2008. Up to 24 year 12 and 13 students from Aranui High and other secondary schools will work in two streams. There will also be the chance for returning students to take up the course.

Tom Reece says the course is not just about driving big diggers; it also covers such areas as occupational health and safety. As well, students continue to gain credits towards NCEA.

"It's the way of the future," he said.

The official launch will take place on Monday September 17, at 6pm at Aranui High School, with students using the simulators for the first time.

Principal John Rohs, Tai Poutini Polytechnic CEO Paul Wilson and EXITO CEO Tom Reece will also be available to answer questions on site.


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