Programmes empower ākonga to give back to Northland community

Issue: Volume 102, Number 15

Posted: 16 November 2023
Reference #: 1HAdkZ

Ākonga in the building academy at Bay of Islands College are gaining hands on experience all while actively making a difference in their community. It’s one of many programmes at the college that are inspiring ākonga to expand their knowledge, skills and pathway opportunities.

Students cut logs as part of a forestry course. All photos in this article are supplied by Bay of Islands College.

Students cut logs as part of a forestry course. All photos in this article are supplied by Bay of Islands College.

‘Start small, dream big’ may as well be the motto of the building academy at
the Bay of Islands College (BOIC).

Established in 2022, the building academy has been generating quite a buzz
about teen spirit after students completed several projects that support Te Tai
Tokerau community.

Two of these projects involved repairs at the local RSA (Royal New Zealand
Returned and Services' Association) office and fixing the community
kindergarten and playground.

Students have also repaired fences, stairs and decks for older residents who
cannot afford to hire professionals. On campus, they have built a storage
facility for physical education equipment, a retaining wall around the school,
concrete footpaths, and a garage for the school van.

"Through these various projects, our students have been able to gain
valuable skills. But perhaps more importantly, the building academy has
empowered them to strengthen links and actively make a difference in the
community," says Kamlesh Prakash, deputy principal at BOIC.

The school's long-term goal is to give students an opportunity to build cabins
and two- or three-bedroom houses for local whānau.

For now, Kamlesh says the school was on the lookout for opportunities that
would enable students to gain hands-on experience in carpentry, plumbing,
electrical work and painting as well as give back to the community.

Students from the building academy built a retaining wall around the school.

Students from the building academy built a retaining wall around the school.

Broadening opportunities

The building academy, which is funded through Te Tai Tokerau Trades
Academy, is one of many recent additions to the broad curriculum offered by

To ensure students get a good, well-rounded education, BOIC has broadened
its programme offerings to include courses in financial literacy, legal studies,
agriculture and horticulture, engineering technology, and robotics as well as
training in beekeeping, becoming a barista, hospitality and catering, writing a
CV and preparing for a job interview.

In Arataki, a course run by a former New Zealand Army soldier, students build their skills in leadership, resilience, discipline, and teamwork.

Since 2019, Tuesdays have been designated a "Project Day" to enable
students from Years 11–13 to gain extended exposure to various industries.
The Gateway programme supports this by integrating structured workplace
learning with school-based learning.

Through a memorandum of understanding with BCITO Te Pūkenga, which
provides apprenticeships and supervisor qualifications for the New Zealand
building and construction industry, BOIC students can gain credits through
BCATS (Building, Construction and Allied Trades Skills) that contribute
towards attaining NCEA.

The school has also linked up with some local businesses so students can gain insights into what different industries offer in terms of careers as well as
opportunities for apprenticeships or on-the-job training.

This is one of many ways that BOIC is working to achieve NELP Priority 7 –
“Collaborate with industries and employers to ensure learners/ākonga have
the skills, knowledge and pathways to succeed in work”.

"We want our students to know that there are many paths to success, and to
challenge the perception that going to university is the only valuable pathway
for students to be successful,” says Kamlesh.

“Vocational pathways are just as valuable as tertiary education. The
experiences these students are being exposed to will give them practical skills for life.”

Aligned with local pathways

The broad course offerings align with the economic profile of Northland.
Although underpinned by primary production and manufacturing, the region's
high-performing sectors include pastoral farming and processing, horticulture
and tourism.

"Many of our students will seek jobs in the primary sector so offering a
programme that encourages further growth and study in this industry makes
huge sense," says Kamlesh.

Introducing more learning options that empower learners and connect them
with the world of work has also boosted enrolment figures as well as student
engagement and attendance, says Chris Serfontein, head of technology at

"When I started here in 2016, we had only around 350 students on our roll.
That has since increased to almost 500," he says.

Parents have also been very supportive of the school's approach.
"One of them told me how their son was ready to leave school but has now
found his passion in building and carpentry. She doesn't have to get him out
of bed as she used to. Her son is keen and enthusiastic to go to school
because he wants to, not because he has to," says building academy tutor
Jason Tane.

Student motivation is high and has led to more students staying until Year 13, according to Jason.

"It's great to see our students gaining more self-esteem and walking tall as
they learn new skills. As a school, it is our role to provide all students with
opportunities to learn skills that can lead to successful careers."

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:19 am, 16 November 2023

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