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"Young Maori Excel in Hutt Valley"


"Young Maori Excel in Hutt Valley"

A small yet very successful initiative called "The Tamaiti Whangai Academy" is achieving great results for young Maori in the Hutt Valley. The initiative, which is led by Te Ati Awa (a local Maori Iwi) and the Wellington Institute of Technology (WelTec), is delivered at WelTec's Petone campus. In 2011 130 students are participating in the Tamaiti Whangai Academy. Expectations are high and students are put through their paces through strong role-modelling by staff, who are very focused on students doing well in their tertiary studies. A variety of approaches are put into practice including: encouraging students to continue studying while playing sport, whether it's rugby league, rugby union or softball; promoting culture through Maori carving; and removing barriers to learning and feelings of isolation by setting up a team approach to learning.

Students are expected to excel not only at their studies, but with their sport. In addition they are helped to improve on their social skills and to learn ways to make themselves more employable. "It's tough for young people trying to find work in a tight job market, but with the skills that students learn on this programme they are able to approach employers and most find work. Those that decide to carry on with their studies remain firmly focused on getting a job which, for most, will lead onto a career in their chosen field. At WelTec we want our young students to succeed. Completing their studies and getting a qualification that leads them into employment is our focus," says Dr Linda Sissons, WelTec Chief Executive.

The Tamaiti Whangai Academy offers wrap-around support for students. This includes students learning about health and well-being, and developing their leadership skills. It's a programme that WelTec sees as critical to improving success rates for Maori studying at a tertiary level.

"Of the 94 students enrolled last year, 79 successfully completed their course and four went onto further study. 86 got jobs or relocated to Australia. Completions rates were highest for Tamaiti Whangai students studying exercise science with most involved in rugby league, but also those students in the construction and electrical trades areas excelled.

"Many of the Tamaiti Whangai students are now out-performing their peers. 79% of Tamaiti Whangai students successfully completed their course in 2010 This compares well against the total WelTec student population which achieved a 75% course completion rate[1]," says Dr Sissons.

"For Tamaiti Whangai students studying Electrotechnology we have partnered with Te Puni Kokiri and the Eletrotechnology ITO to offer scholarships to students who want to pursue a career in that industry. This has worked really well and led onto apprenticeships.

"Whilst this type of programme is resource-intensive to run we get great results for a group that may not do so well otherwise. We have the support of local Iwi who have mentors on site helping students. These mentors are also employees of WelTec. In addition organisations such as Te Puni Kokiri support our students through scholarships as they can see the positive outcomes, measurable in terms of course and qualification completion rates and employment."

David Lomax, a mentor and tutor for The Tamaiti Whangai Academy says, "One of the biggest lessons young people learn when they come to WelTec is how to put past disappointments and failure behind them. They have an opportunity to do well here. We give them the skills to cope in a classroom, to work in teams and to develop their sense of themselves as achievers. Students learn how to deal with life's challenges without giving up or resorting to violence, alcohol or drugs."

"The Tamaiti Whangai Academy has had a positive impact throughout WelTec," says Dr Sissons. "Our course and qualification rates have improved across the Institute. Some of this improvement can be attributed to the effectiveness of The Tamaiti Whangai Academy. All staff are learning how to better support young students. We have established a community through Te Whare Awhina - WelTec's Petone-based centre which supports Maori students through the practice of Manaakitanga and Awhina. This community wants to support learners to do well whether that is through a pre-trade electrical programme, a hospitality certificate or diploma or a creative technologies degree", said Dr Sissons.


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