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Nelson Marlborough Academy Fills The Gap

Nelson Marlborough Academy Fills The Gap
1 May 2014

Top of the South Trades Academy, Nelson and Marlborough

The lack of vocational training opportunities available to students across the Top of the South region is being addressed by a unique educational organisation.

Five colleges and the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) recognised the need to provide clear pathways for students leaving school and considering tertiary training or employment in the region.

Top of the South Trades Academy was established in 2011. Shaaron Adams, Trades Academy Manager, opened the door to students and within five months 110 students from the Nelson Tasman region had joined up. Now two years later the Academy has 15 partners including Whenua iti Outdoors, a new tertiary provider, in a region extending from Nelson and Tasman to Marlborough, offering 12 different programmes to nearly 300 students.

TOTSTA provides students in the region an opportunity to learn and engage in programmes across a range of industries and trades enabling successful transition from school to tertiary training and the outside employment world

“My satisfaction is getting all of our partners working in a constructive way for the students in the region,” Shaaron says. “Daily I see the energy and motivation that the students have gained.”

Students can access programmes across hospitality, tourism, agriculture, construction and many others. The programmes have a component where students study at their own school and attend at least one day at TOTSTA. Students thrive in the tertiary-type environment which is hands on. Students have to take on more personal responsibility and are therefore more engaged in the ‘work’, they are punctual and are present. Students start to learn the fundamentals of what it might take to work in a particular field or industry.

“Vocational Pathways is an extremely timely initiative. It’s the ideal time for it and the community at large understands why it’s good. Vocational Pathways are helping students, parents and the community prepare our young people for work, study or training. The programmes are providing the skills that industry wants.” TOTSTA is starting to build and grow the number of students coming out with valuable skills and qualifications to help build the pool of talent in New Zealand.
Arthur Graves, General Manager of Youth Guarantee, who runs the Vocational Pathways Programme said: “We need to support our young people to gain at least a minimum of NCEA Level 2 or equivalent, using the Vocational Pathways students can plan their study options and see how their learning relates to future study, training or work options. Learning in a Trades Academy gives students real skills and qualifications that relate to future employment options and they begin to understand how their learning relates to the needs of industry. The Trades Academies put the student at the centre so the options available meet their needs."
Shaaron explains that TOTSTA’s role is to provide an atmosphere where students experience what tertiary training is about, succeed in that environment, build relationships with tutors and students from other schools and get a sense of the pathways open to them.

“We give the students in our region an opportunity to have a ‘foot in the door’ giving students a clearer picture of their future options while still remaining in the school environment and part of the school’s values.”

Nat Edwards from Waimea College experienced that ‘foot in the door’ while pursuing a career in mechanical engineering.

However, as a result of the environment and conversations with tutors who encouraged him to make his own decisions, Nat changed his mind.

“I had a career rethink. I wanted to try something different. I talked to my family and a couple of local builders and decided I wanted to do construction,” Nat says.

“I’m a hands-on, outdoors person. I had this vision of starting with an empty space and building something architecturally designed.”

As a result Nat, who’s in Year 13 at Waimea College, has started his second year at TOTSTA with the goal of an apprenticeship in building.

In 10 years’ time he intends to own his own company to build the structures of the future somewhere in the world. But there’s also a strong humanitarian side to Nat.

“I want to help people in need. I want to build homes for them and give them shelter,” he says.

That humanitarian component is a key part of the Academy and students are treated as colleagues, receive personal attention, shown the right pathway and get the hands-on experience they require.

Shaaron says the students are more motivated with their studies and understand the importance of maths and English because of how the subjects are implicitly being taught and applied in practical projects such construction or business.

She’s so confident the Academy is succeeding, that TOTSTA has entered the Prime Minister’s Excellence in Education award. The programme is ticking all the boxes she says and her 15 partners would agree.

More than 4,200 senior secondary schools students, from 264 schools are currently enrolled at a Trades Academy this year, in 22 Secondary-Tertiary Programmes throughout New Zealand. For initial outcomes from these programmes, see the ‘Youth Guarantee Monitoring Report: Impact of Trades Academies & Youth Guarantee Fees-Free Provision on Student Performance’ to see the effect on outcomes for students


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