Partnerships enrich student pathways

Issue: Volume 98, Number 21

Posted: 6 December 2019
Reference #: 1HA3fD

Research shows that young people who have four or more quality engagements with employers while at school, are five times less likely to be NEET (Not in Employment Education or Training). With teachers being one of the most important influencers to young people when it comes to their career choices, events such as education to employment workshops or career expos help initiate partnerships with employers. Education Gazette looked at a series of events held in the Wellington region as examples of local engagements designed to build connections between students, teachers and employers.

Education to Employment Workshop

Wellington teachers heard from industry speakers and met with employers to learn more about the future of work and what this will mean for students entering employment. 

The Education to Employment workshop, which was hosted by Victoria University of Wellington and the Ministry of Education, was designed to link secondary teachers of STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) with relevant employers and industry bodies. Employers that participated included Piki Studios, Spark NZ, Westpac, MYOB, Master Plumbers NZ, PaperKite and Accenture. 

Taita College teacher Shakuntla Awmee says she was excited to be able to meet employers and industry representatives, and use this opportunity to support students in the classroom. 

“I think that the more we expose students to industries/employers, the more they will learn. And if that exposure happens at an earlier age, before they leave school, they will be better prepared for the future,” says Shakuntla. 

Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (The Correspondence School) teacher Amanda O’Connell says that she found the event inspiring, and hopes for more opportunities where students can take part alongside teachers in linking with employers. 

“I think the less the teaching profession is isolated from other types of jobs, the more we make connections and integrate, the better it’s going to be for students. I also think that we need to step back and let the students take the lead with some things so teachers can discover together with them. We often make assumptions and try to put ourselves in students’ shoes but we can be wrong,” says Amanda.

Supporting learners to prepare for the unknown

The world of work continues to change and young people need to adapt to get ahead in their chosen career. The Foundation for Young Australians identified four accelerators that could help young people move more quickly from education to full-time employment. These include enterprise skills (soft skills/work-ready skills), relevant paid work experience/employment, work in future-focused clusters and an optimistic mindset. 

MYOB education manager Shailan Patel says their company has shifted the way they look for talent. 

“Traditionally, we’ve been experience- and skills-based, now we’re moving towards attitude and aptitude as well. We can always teach technical skills but it’s harder to teach the ‘soft skills’ or that willingness to learn, to share, to add to the values and vision of our company,” says Shailan. 

“We’re not just looking for grades and length of experience, we’re also looking at the potential as well.” 

Shailan says it’s important that employers, teachers and students are linked with each other to be in tune with these changes. 

Challenging stereotypes

“What’s worked before for years, isn’t working anymore. It’s all about lifelong learning. Things are changing so quickly now, that both teachers and students need to be learning at such pace to keep up. Events like this are very important because it enables teachers to link directly with and be more informed about the skills the industry needs.” 

Master Plumbers NZ communications and marketing advisor Joanne Caine says they participated in this event to reach influencers, such as teachers, to get the message across to young people that there are other pathways to consider besides university. 

Joanne says things have changed since ‘the old days’ when entering the trades was considered an inferior option to tertiary education. 

“That is such a fallacy,” says Joanne. “You have to be smart to be a good tradesperson.” She points to Masterlink – the mentored apprenticeship programme owned by Master Plumbers, which requires candidates to bring the right skills, attitude and commitment. Plumbing, drainlaying and gasfitting apprenticeships involve coursework and hands-on training, followed by the opportunity for apprentices to put it all into practice on site with their host company. 

A curriculum that supports local contexts 

Joanne believes it’s important to relate learning in the classroom to work and life skills.

“For example, if you’re learning about sine, cosine and tangent, the reason is if you became an engineer or a builder, then learning these could be incredibly useful in the future,” says Joanne. “Plumbers need to accurately calculate measurements, volumes and pressure levels. That awareness can make learning more relevant to students.”

Shailan says relationships between teachers and the industry help shape thinking on how the subjects can connect to the different career pathways for students. 

“Instead of thinking linear in terms of ‘if you study this subject, you will have that career’, what are the vast opportunities out there?” he says.

“It’s about transferable skills and how you can use those skills within a subject.

“It’s also thinking about how you apply the learning in a practical sense. What’s important to employers is for the person to be able to articulate how they applied that learning to produce an outcome or solve a problem,” says Shailan.

Forming bridges between young people and employers in the Hutt Valley

Two Education to Employment events were held in the Hutt Valley to connect students and teachers with local employers.

Year 8 Skills and Career Expo

Year 8 students in the Hutt Valley attended the It’s Your World Skills and Career Expo hosted by the Upper Hutt City Council-owned Expressions Arts and Entertainment Centre. 

Local schools Hutt International Boys School, St Joseph’s School Upper Hutt, Fergusson Intermediate, Maidstone Intermediate, and St Brendan’s School took part in the event. Students met with employers, which gave them a chance to ask questions about the nature of the work and the skills needed in their respective industries. 

“It’s important for young people to start thinking about their career options as early as possible,” says Roy Sye, the Ministry of Education’s Director of Education for the Wellington region.

“Events like this enable students to explore a range of career pathways they might not have previously considered.”

Among the many participating employers were NZ Rock Lobster, NZ Police, BCITO, Connexis, Yoobee, Young Enterprise Scheme, Downer Group, Upper Hutt City Council and the Ministry of Education.

From Education to Employment 

The From Education to Employment event held at Naenae College linked secondary teachers in Lower Hutt with local employers and the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce. 

The experience enabled teachers to create relationships with business and industry in their local area, and provided them with relevant information that can inform the development of local curriculum and support for students as they study towards a career. The relationships that have formed will mean more opportunities for students to have quality engagements with employers and potentially get a foot in the door towards their chosen career. It is also hoped that this will mark the beginning of long-term partnerships where teachers are working with local employers to strengthen links between in-classroom learning and workplace needs. 

The event was a collaboration between the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Ministry of Education.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:50 am, 6 December 2019

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