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Whitireia And WelTec On-site Childcare Supports Mum Through Studies

Courtney Russell, daughters and June Mongomery.

There was a big focus by the Government in 2020 to financially support New Zealanders who want, or need, to gain skills-based qualifications as pathways to employment in the wake of Covid-19 - but sometimes finances are not the only barrier to study.

With unemployment on the rise, women are said to be disproportionately affected. According to McKinsey & Company, women's jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable than men’s. So what happens if you want to study or retrain, but you have young children at home to care for?

Mother of four, Courtney Russell from Porirua, has her two young daughters enrolled in the Porirua childcare centre run by Whitireia on its campus, while she studies towards her Bachelor of Nursing Pacific.

“I had my first son at 17, so I never finished school,” explains Courtney. “I worked at my Dad’s Mad Butcher for years between looking after my kids, but after my youngest daughter Mackenzie was born, I decided that I wanted to go back to study, and started to think about what I want to do as a career.

“My sister and a few of my family members have studied at Whitireia and really enjoyed their time here. I always wanted to be a vet, but since I have gotten older I realised that it is people that I want to help, so I decided on nursing. Because I didn’t graduate from high school I had to complete Foundational Health and Social Science at Whitireia before starting my Bachelor of nursing degree.”

Having the childcare option on campus has made the transition back into study so much easier for Courtney, as it saves time, and both she and her daughters have positive relationships with the early childhood teachers at the centre.

“When I brought my girls to the Whitireia daycare they settled in straight away, and it gave me such peace of mind to know that they were nearby in case they needed me,” says Courtney. “It is so easy too, in the morning I can drop them on my way to class and pick them up as soon as I finish studying. And the pricing is really reasonable.

“Sometimes it is hard to be away from my girls but Whitireia is so supportive and really want their students to succeed. If you are having any challenges they will work with you to try and find a solution and the daycare is an extension of that. If this daycare wasn’t available, I might still be at home with my girls and put my studies off until they were at primary school.”

The daycare centres are open from 7.45am to 5pm which allows for students who are studying long hours or traveling from outer suburbs. They have the capacity for 37 children and have six qualified teachers and one part-time unqualified teacher, which is a high teacher to child ratio.

Porirua daycare centre team leader June Montgomery believes having the students’ children close by can really help the students succeed with their studies.

“Having their children nearby can really alter the students’ mindsets,” says June. “If they know that their children are in a happy and supportive environment close to where they are, it is one less thing on their mind, and they can put all their concentration into their studies. They also know that if worst comes to worst and their child needs them, then it is easy for the parent to come and settle them or take them home.”

The connection with Whitireia and WelTec also means that the children can join in on events happening on campus, and parents get to share the experience with them.

“One cool thing that the centre does is bring the kids to the campus to watch performances,” says Courtney. “During Māori language week the performing arts students put on a show at lunchtime. It was so nice to see my girls, and share that experience with them without taking time out from my study. It also meant I could show them where I spend my days when I’m not with them.”

Whitireia and WelTec have childcare options for children between three months and five years old, at both Porirua and Petone campuses. The Petone childcare centre - Te Whare Ako - is licenced for 42 children, with 7 qualified teachers and one part-time unqualified teacher. Both centres offer flexible hours, and a number of financial support options.

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