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Ara | Te Pūkenga Wins National Teaching Award With Industry Collaboration "exemplar"

A specialised workplace learning model with a strong record of success for learners has been recognised with a national tertiary teaching award.

Ara | Te Pūkenga and Awanui Group, a leading provider of medical laboratory testing and pathology services across New Zealand with extensive workplace training needs, are Group Category winners (Progressing Education Partnerships and Collaboration) in the Te Whatu Kairangi - Aotearoa Tertiary Educator Awards.

The citation for the award described work as "an exemplar for others" blending industry knowledge, academic and pedagogical expertise, and an informed understanding of learner needs.

"It’s so exciting to have such a great team with a clear vision for bringing together industry and education, recognised for quite ground-breaking work," Department of Applied Sciences and Social Practice Senior Academic Tracy Hutton said.

Ara Educational Developer Alan Hoskin added that the award was recognition for the mahi put in by industry, subject matter experts from across the country and dedicated kaimahi (staff). "We all believed in this project from the start, knowing it would make a difference in the lives of learners professionally and personally," Hoskin said.

Awanui Learning and Capability Manager Heather Compton, said the achievement dated back to a 2016 ‘He Tangata’ initiative under the then Healthscope NZ executive to "put our people first and deliver employment-long learning to meet a range of needs".

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Compton said the pathway was having a significant impact. "It’s now easier to attract and retain employees, opening doors to school leavers, second chance learners, Māori, Pacifica, and rural learners. Graduates of this programme, report their scientific knowledge is stronger as a result, positively impacting competency and engagement."

To date, 17 cohorts have progressed through the entirely online Level 5 diploma programme, which provides a new registration pathway for pre-analytical technicians in clinical settings to become registered with the Medical Sciences Council. The qualification has resulted in significantly higher rates of satisfaction among learners and increased recruitment of Māori and Pasifika.

Included in the citation, an Awanui employee of 26 years said, "I cannot speak highly enough of the diploma and the team at Ara." Another said they’d experienced "exceptional teaching skills, dedication and a genuine passion in the field" in their learning.

The eight-strong group named on the award include Ara’s Dr Grant Bennett, Alan Hoskin, Marion Hale, Derek Chirnside, Tracy Hutton, Elaine Rutherford, and Clare Hutchinson along with Heather Compton, from Awanui Group.

Philippa Meek, Ara Manager of Science said former staff had also contributed to the programme which embodied Ara’s learners-first approach and Awanui’s values-led philosophy. She said positive impacts of the work-based learning reached well beyond the coursework.

"The expertise of all involved supports ākonga during delivery of the programme, but also afterwards as they go on to act as work-based trainers or mentors," Meek said.

Te Pūkenga Region 4 co-leader Darren Mitchell said the team effort had secured great results for learners and industry.

"It has been rewarding to see this bespoke qualification evolve and grow thanks to the strong motivation of our partner Awanui Group and the dedication of Ara’s Education Development and Academic teams who ensure these work-based learners are supported every step of the way.

There is huge potential for growth of this winning formula, and we are excited to see how it progresses."

Meek agreed that a template now existed for the delivery of further tailored programmes designed to meet work-based learning across a variety of sectors. "This award further affirms the power of building a strong collaboration between education providers and industry needs," she added.

Hosted by Ako Aotearoa, Te Whatu Kairangi Aotearoa Tertiary Educator Awards (previously known as the Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards) are the most recognised awards for the entire tertiary education and training sector in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Awards ceremony, including the announcement of the Prime Minister’s Educator of the Year Award (for which the Ara-Awanui group is a finalist) will take place at Parliament 26 September.

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