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Staying at school progresses outdoor passion and future

Staying at school progresses outdoor passion and future

Greymouth student Ryan O’Connor has a passion for the thrill of white water and sees a future tutoring kayaking on rivers around the world. Ryan’s kayaking interest started at Greymouth High School in Year 9 when a couple of keen teachers offered canoe polo and regular river trips to students.

Seeing that his passion could become a pathway to a career for Ryan, teachers encouraged him to use the Trades Academy courses offered by his school with Tai Poutini Polytechnic to motivate him to earn credits and give him stepping-stones to a satisfying future.

Ryan says initially he considered doing the full time course offered at Tai Poutini in 2014 but his parents and teachers encouraged him to use the school’s part time course and to stay on at school another year.

After a successful year completing the Outdoor Education Course and continuing with his traditional school subjects, Ryan is more determined than ever to make a career out of his love for kayaking.

“I’m glad I stayed at school. It means graduating with my friends. I’ve also been able to continue to play hockey for school and the West Coast Under 18 team. I’m also more mature now. I haven’t changed my plans on what I’m going to do. Actually, it’s confirmed I’m on the right track, and I have a stronger resolution to do the Outdoor Education Course at Tai Poutini and to become a kayak instructor.”

The programme includes five sections – kayaking, tramping, rock climbing, sea kayaking, and mountaineering and was held as blocks courses each over a five-day period.

The course gave Ryan credits towards NCEA Level 2 and 3 and set him up with a Vocational Pathways Award in the Services Industries.

“The best part was the kayaking, probably because I’m already good at it. The worst parts were during sections when I was cold and hungry, but you forget that when you finish. The achievement makes it all worthwhile.”

Greymouth High School Principal Andy England says the school has been a part of a group that includes tertiary providers, community and business leaders, Development West Coast, that identifies local skill shortages. He says tourism and outdoor adventure is the third biggest industry on the Coast.

“It’s a bigger sector than most people think. The West Coast offers a host of attractions, including the mighty Buller River, Paparoa National Park with its spectacular limestone caves and the remarkable Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. Almost all the West Coast region is National Park or Conservation Estate land. Greymouth is a very important service hub for the tourist industry. As well as providing accommodation, we also have Shanty Town and the Monteith’s Brewery.

“Here on the West Coast we have heaps of talented kids. A problem in the past is they have not been work ready when leaving school. Vocational Pathways is addressing this, creating motivated workers at a higher entry level. It’s great when local businesses can recruit the right people from their own without having to look further afield. It is also great when students can study locally.”

Trades Academies are part of the Government’s Youth Guarantee initiatives. They focus on providing more choices for young New Zealanders and giving them greater opportunities to develop their knowledge, skills and talents through trades, technology and services programmes that are jointly provided by schools and tertiary education organisations. Tai Poutini Polytechnic in conjunction with local high schools offers an Outdoor Education programme.



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