Gateway to the workplace 

Issue: Volume 100, Number 6

Posted: 6 May 2021
Reference #: 1HAKUW

Gateway programme work placements at a local IT company for two Wellington High School students have resulted in jobs for them both. The school and business are both delighted with the outcome, and for the two new employees, it’s a dream come true. 

Flynn Roberts didn’t have a plan beyond getting through Year 12, but a work placement arranged through his school’s Gateway programme changed his life beyond his dreams. 

At just 17, Flynn Roberts now works full-time as a technician at the Wellington headquarters of The Laptop Company, a nationwide computer company. He loves the job – and can scarcely believe it’s his. 

Flynn Roberts’ work experience led to a paid position at The Laptop Company

Flynn Roberts’ work experience led to a paid position at The Laptop Company

“I was very excited when I got my contract. Doing work experience here was so much fun, and now I’m actually getting paid for it.” 

Smooth transition to the workforce 

This time last year, Flynn was a Year 12 student at Wellington High School who had no clue” what he was going to do beyond school. 

At around the same time, The Laptop Company approached the school wanting to set up work experience opportunities for senior students interested in an IT career.  

We didn’t enter the partnership with the specific goal of hiring students  it was about getting more people engaged in the IT industry and the opportunity for personal growth for our team. It adds real value to us as an organisation,” says The Laptop Company chief executive Mark Mayo. “We wanted to give something back to the community. 

After meeting with Wellington High School’s careers team, The Laptop Company created a two-week work experience opportunity for one student. Flynn, who was studying computer science and built computers as a hobby, was chosen from several applicants. With the guidance of team leader Matt Pickering, he started learning how to repair laptops and complete accompanying paperwork.  

“I was expecting Flynn to be quite green, however he blew me away with his technical knowledge,” says Matt. “I asked my boss if we could hire him when we next had an openingHe’s very quick to pick things up, he’s a hard worker and he told me that the work was exactly what he wanted to do.” 

Flynn himself was happily surprised by how much he enjoyed the workplace setting. Diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), he had long found school challenging, and worried that he’d struggle to manage in an office environmentBut I’m perfectly fine with it; much better than I thought I would be,” says Flynn. 

“It’s a great team here, they understand that I’m new to the workforce and the industry, and they’re open to helping me even with simple things like email. Gateway has been so valuable for me and I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been.” 

Life-changing experience 

The company’s second Gateway placement later in 2020 also culminated in a hiring, this time of Year 13 student, Quentin Smith.  

“All I knew about workplaces was what I’d seen on TV and in movies but it’s not like that here, it’s way nicer,” says Quentin. 

The Gateway Programme has helped Quentin Smith find a job that he loves

The Gateway Programme has helped Quentin Smith find a job that he loves

Gateway gave me the chance to experience a workplace where I could focus on learning rather than worrying that I was doing everything right. School talked me through how to do an interview, what to ask and what to wear. At school I wore shorts and a T-shirt every day and I had no idea what I should wear to work. Luckily, I had some pants and a collared shirt which I’d worn to a funeral and that seemed to be right. 

Before his Gateway placement, Quentin had hoped to secure an electrician apprenticeship so he could have a trade like his father, who is a plumber 

“I was shocked when The Laptop Company offered me a job as a provisioning technician. My life has changed dramatically, and it’s been great; everyone here is so kind and helpful,” says Quentin. 

The ultimate result 

Quentin and Flynn’s transition to the workplace is “the ultimate result” to a Gateway placement, according to Wellington High School’s Gateway administrator, Paula Willis.  

They were punctual, worked hard and communicated well so when positions became available the employer automatically thought of them instead of advertising. I always tell our students that there are a lot of bonuses to Gateway  the experience, the credits, and gaining a reference from an employer. If you work hard and shine, you might get a job offer,” says Paula. 

Gateway interest is high at the 1,400-student school. Last year 66 students joined the programme and of those, 20 were offered paid or voluntary work.  

The programme is available to all students with a minimum of 82 per cent attendance. “If they don’t have that I’ll say, ‘Let me see good attendance for three weeks then we’ll look at it for you’. They need to be reliable, good communicators and enthusiastic. I want students who are keen  I’m not going to place students who don’t want it,” Paula says. 

Paula and her colleagues work with students to prepare their resumes, practise interview skills and dress appropriately for the workplace.  

We’re just amazed that out of this we have two new employees and I think it shows the quality of young people we have in New Zealand,” says Mark. “As soon as we had opportunities we thought of Quentin and Flynn because they’ve absolutely proven themselves to be more than capable of working in our business. 

Benefits to business and young people 

Mark says the time commitment required of being a Gateway employer has been surprisingly small, something he attributes to the school’s thorough preparation.  

“The students are actually very capable which means they’ve been able to add value to us straight away. You do need to set up good processes and have a clear plan of what the student will be doing, but when you have done it once it’s just a case of tweaking the programme depending on the student’s interests.  

The idea is that if they are here for two or three weeksthey’re not just shadowing someone, they’re actually a productive member of our team. We have a plan to educate them, teach them some new skills, some processes specific to the tasks they will be doing and then let them actually do it  

I think the intangible benefits for our staff in feeling like we’re giving something back and that we’re involved in a programme that is so positive, completely outweighs any impact of time commitment. It is about so much more than identifying talented young people; if we hadn’t employed them it was still a great experience and one that we’re keen to continue and expand. Even if the student doesn’t get a job with us at the end of it, those two or three weeks need to be very valuable. They need to walk away with skills and experience and confidence. If they feel like they can walk into a work environment and be productive and positive from day one then hey, we’ve done well,” says Mark.  

Mark encourages other businesses to reach out to Gateway. 

I’m singing about it from the rooftops because it’s such a positive thing for New Zealand. If you’re a business, just talk to the Ministry of Education or pick a school and start the conversation. The team at Wellington High School has been so welcoming and supportive that this all has happened just from that opening conversation. 

Quentin and Flynn are enjoying learning and working alongside The Laptop Company leader Matt Pickering

Quentin and Flynn are enjoying learning and working alongside The Laptop Company leader Matt Pickering

What is Gateway? 

Gateway is a partnership between school, student and business; a formal learning arrangement set in a workplace. It is designed to support the transition of young people from school to employment through on-the-job learning and assessment 

While on work placements, students have their learning assessed against unit standards on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF), which are integrated into their current programme of study thus providing a broader range of achievement for NCEA. Students can achieve specific vocational skills and make significant progress towards industry-recognised qualifications. 

All state secondary, state-integrated secondary, and partnership schools/kura hourua with students at Year 11 and above can apply for Gateway funding from the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) to meet costs incurred by arranging and managing workplace learning. 

For employers, Gateway provides opportunities to recruit new talent within the community and to contribute to local employment needs.  

For more information, go to Gateway - Tertiary Education Commission(external link).

 Quentin Smith, CEO Mark Mayo, Flynn Roberts and team leader Matt Pickering at The Laptop Company

Quentin Smith, CEO Mark Mayo, Flynn Roberts and team leader Matt Pickering at The Laptop Company

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 AM, 6 May 2021

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