Health academy provides real-world skills and knowledge for future workforce

Issue: Volume 103, Number 8

Posted: 27 June 2024
Reference #: 1HAh24

For the past seven years, NorthTec has helped students gain health industry experience, knowledge, and skills – while still earning NCEA credits. Their academy programme has helped strengthen pathways into health careers with many students going on to complete further industry-related study.

Health academy students Lilly Humphreys and Kelsey MacCarthy-Morrogh with tutor Lucie Quantrill.

Health academy students Lilly Humphreys and Kelsey MacCarthy-Morrogh with tutor Lucie Quantrill.

Once a week, ākonga from schools around Te Tai Tokerau spend their day at NorthTec, a tertiary education provider in Whangārei. The environment not only provides practical experience for a future career, it helps students work towards achieving important unit standards.

It’s not a traditional classroom, but that’s exactly what makes it so impactful.

“I think the advantage is that they get to experience practical stuff [of a role in the health field], such as blood pressure taking, temperature taking, using a stethoscope. The students go on a field trip to the hospital (subject to covid restrictions) as well to get to meet health care professionals like midwifes, doctors, nurses etc,” says Jane Lim, NorthTec Trades Academy coordinator.

“Students get to experience what a job is like rather than just reading about it or looking at photos. Under the Trades Academy programme, they get to experience it themselves.”

Opening up pathways into health

NorthTec’s health academy was established in 2017 to support students at Whangārei Girls’ High School gain tertiary and clinical experience in the health field. It is part of the broader Trades Academy programme, which offers a range of opportunities, including automotive, hospitality, and hair and beauty.

Today, the academy supports Year 12 students from seven schools across Northland.

NorthTec tutor Lucie Quantrill says the students do a combination of theory and practical work to gain those Level 2 NCEA credits. While some students are not initially fond of the written work, they have a better understanding when they can link the theory to the practical.

“When they learn about infection control, they do some book work but then we also do a practical lesson on hand hygiene and donning and doffing PPE.

“When they learn about moving people and equipment, we do scenarios such as how to move a patient up if they slide down the bed, or how to transfer somebody safely.”

Jane says the health academy opens many pathways for students.

“Either the student would return to school and do NCEA Level 3 before they do the degree, or some would leave school at Year 12 and do the foundation at Level 4 before they can proceed with the degree. That has been the case most of the time.”

Denise Jelicich, Te Tai Tokerau Trades Academy manager, says that “bridging the gap between high school and entry-level tertiary” is what makes the health academy highly successful.

“It’s not just academic. They’ve got a ward set up in the teaching space with beds and blood pressure equipment and all the other stuff. Students are issued with scrubs when they first start. They look like trainee nurses – they’re making that first step towards that vocation,”
says Denise.

Retention, engagement and achievement

Denise says the whole philosophy of trades academies centres around retention, engagement and achievement.

“It’s about keeping them at school, boosting their achievement, and providing meaningful pathways. The Northland programme is ticking all those boxes,” she says.

The statistics confirm this – the number of students who complete the academy consistently exceeds 70 percent.

A significant proportion of graduates choose to pursue further study at NorthTec across a range of programmes, showing the positive impact of the academy’s preparation, and its versatility.

Jane says there are students who went through the academy who are now registered nurses. Around 21 students are currently studying nursing at NorthTec in the Bachelor of Nursing or Diploma of Enrolled Nursing.

The NorthTec health academy is based in Raumanga, Whangārei.

The NorthTec health academy is based in Raumanga, Whangārei.

Preparation for the real world

Aliesha Evans is one of those students. She attended the health academy as a Year 12 student in 2022. Aliesha left school at the end of that year and started a six-month Level 4 course at NorthTec at the beginning of 2023.

She is now studying for a Bachelor of Nursing degree at NorthTec and is due to graduate in July 2026. She says she always wanted to be a nurse and the health academy cemented that dream.

“I loved the health academy. It exposed me to what it would be like to be a nurse and it also widened my knowledge on multiple important topics. The clinical/practical aspect of the course to me was the most enjoyable and I think a lot of other health academy students would say the same. I was able to practise doing vital signs like taking blood pressures, respiratory rates, pulse rates, temperatures and I also learnt multiple assessment tools,” she says.

She says the course “100 percent” prepared her for the Bachelor of Nursing.

“I not only knew my way around the campus, but I knew some of the staff. I had also learnt basic skills in the clinical room as well as other theory topics.

“By doing the health academy it felt like I was a step ahead before I’d even started.”

Lucie and Jane say seeing students go on to have success after the programme is “hugely rewarding”.

“I see the students right at the beginning all the way through. Any student that starts and then when they complete their degree or diploma is rewarding, you see such personal growth,” says Lucie.

“I think that’s the objective, to make a difference in the lives of these young people,” says Jane.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 11:30 am, 27 June 2024

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