Partnership sparks career pathways in Hawke’s Bay

Issue: Volume 98, Number 5

Posted: 20 March 2019
Reference #: 1H9sQt

A partnership between a Hastings high school and a local engineering business is giving students valuable career opportunities – while also returning significant benefits for the school and helping to resolve a nationwide skills shortage.

Fresh opportunities for careers could be on the cards for senior students at Hastings Boys’ High School, after an engineering company approached the school with an initiative that goes beyond the Gateway programme and may turn out to be a circuit breaker.

There’s an acute shortage of young people entering the field of engineering, where jobs are abundant. However, many students don’t know the many different options in engineering, or in other fields like it.

Patton Engineering is a major player in the industry in Hawke’s Bay, but last year it couldn’t find enough staff with welding skills, which are essential for the business. It failed to attract any apprentices, and even a posting it put on Trade Me offering apprenticeships got no response.

The firm then decided to look at a long-term plan for developing the skills it needs in the region and is now partnering with Hastings Boys’ High School, which provides trades training for senior students in Years 11, 12 and 13. At the time, the school had one Y11 and one combined Y12–13 class of students studying engineering, but limited class resources such as gas and welding equipment – the key tools of the trade.

The school was spending one third of its departmental budget on the materials, and that allowed for just two gas welders, giving the students little time to practise in class time – often just minutes a week.

“Colossal saving” for school

“Engineering technology is horrendously expensive,” says Principal Robert Sturch.

Patton Engineering has donated time, materials and resources, and also the opportunity for practical training at its workshop to develop essential skills, particularly welding.

It has provided, with the help of sponsorships and grants from trusts, eight MIG welding machines for the class, plus a new bench and equipment, and the extra capacity has led to the numbers of students in the Y11 engineering class doubling from 20 to 45, resulting in two Year 11 classes along with the Y12 class.

Patton Engineering has also used its purchasing power with its suppliers to enable the school to buy gas at lower cost, as well as steel, safety equipment, and fabrication machinery.

“The cost of resources for the school has gone down 75 per cent. It’s been a colossal saving,” says Robert.

Patton Engineering’s suppliers have jumped on board to help out. For one day a fortnight, a group of students go to the company workshop to train with experienced welders, giving the students up to six hours of welding time per day. All students in Y12 are provided this opportunity and through a rotation basis everyone gets to experience industry training. The equipment is set up specifically for them to use.

Later on in the year, the training gets more focused and the pool of students who make up the group of eight students attending fortnightly training gets smaller. Patton Engineering has also taken on three boys this year in apprenticeships and plans to take on more apprentices each year.

Year 12 student Manahi Goulton is relishing the chance to do hands-on welding and fabricating at the workshop.

“I never wanted to work in engineering before, but I do now, and I’d be way behind in my knowledge without this experience,” he says.

Culture change

Robert says it has changed the culture in the class, and the boys have much more enthusiasm as they can now see opportunities in the industry for them once they graduate.

“Anyone who moves into this pathway won’t just be doing welding, as they’ll be using technology such as computers for design work and working on advanced fabrication machinery. It’s certainly not as one-dimensional as most people expect.

“Also, with the support of trusts like One Foundation, students can now work on machinery and tools in the workshop that are similar to what they will find in industry.

“Location-wise, they’ll have local options because of skills shortages. Most people want to stay local, if they can, after gaining qualifications and that is a real possibility if you have what Hawke’s Bay employers need.

“At any school, for some students, going on to university for tertiary study is the right thing, but for others it’s not, and they need guidance on alternatives. There’s a desperate shortage of trades people in New Zealand, and young qualified tradies can earn a very good living in a satisfying career.”

Building connections

The building of relationships between the school and other parties has been vital to the Hastings Boys’ High School initiative, Robert says.

“The technology department has a great relationship with the local industry, and with our local polytech, Eastern Institute of Technology. It’s like a big family.

“And we have one person in the school who is the central point of contact, a conduit who connects everyone. That works really well.

“Our partnership with Patton has created a template that we’re going to be using elsewhere, such as for construction and building. We didn’t have that kind of reach-out before.”

Tips for teachers

Start a conversation: many employers in local communities are willing to help schools. Get in contact.

Partner up: connect with businesses and tertiary providers.

Make it easy: have a single point of contact for the school for employers in your area so everyone knows where to get information.

Skills improve with real-world experience

Ektaj Singh is one of three boys chosen for apprenticeships with Patton Engineering. He was one of a group of eight students given the chance of hands-on experience in the company’s workshop for one day every fortnight, doing welding and steel fabrication. He says it’s a great opportunity and has given him a career direction, as he was unsure what to do after Year 13.

“I love it. But if it wasn’t for the help and direction from my teachers, I wouldn’t be here. The school’s also given me a toolbox and some starting tools.”

“Because of the skills shortage, we felt we had a moral obligation to act to change the situation,” says company spokesperson Andrew Burn. “Students usually can’t know what’s involved in an industry without working in it. They just need the opportunity to connect, get skills and find out information.”

Andrew is impressed with the commitment of the eight students. “All of them have good attitudes, embraced the work and developed their welding skills.”

Patton Engineering has been contacted by other businesses in the region, including the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board, Pak’nSave and others involved in construction and engineering, to see if the initiative could work for them. DSK Engineering and McLaren Stainless have also joined the initiative and both companies now offer similar training to four students each fortnight on the same rotational basis as Patton Engineering.

Andrew is also working with a local accountancy firm to develop a programme that will help the students manage their money once they start earning.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 11:49 am, 20 March 2019

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