Real-world contexts explored by Waikato students

Issue: Volume 95, Number 22

Posted: 5 December 2016
Reference #: 1H9d5j

Smart Waikato’s Secondary School-Employer Partnerships (SSEP) are formal relationships where employers from a range of sectors connect with secondary school students.

Smart Waikato is a charitable trust formed in 2009 to strengthen networks between employers and educators in the region.

Supported by Waikato Means Business, the Ministry of Education and WEL Energy Trust, the SSEP initiative was piloted throughout 2016 at five Waikato schools. Smart Waikato has worked alongside the Ministry of Education to design their curriculum utilising Vocational Pathways.

Each school was partnered with a local business with a focus on STEM, including Hamilton Boys’ High (IT and technology), Fairfield College (maths), Thames High (business studies), Hauraki Plains College (English) and Morrinsville College (science) this year.

The SSEP initiative will continue to operate at these schools in subsequent years.

With the overarching goals of improving student engagement, achievement and education-to-employment transitions, the partnerships have been well-received by both Waikato schools and businesses.

New partnerships announced for 2017

The initiative is set to grow in 2017, with the employer-educator partnerships planned in five more schools within the Waikato region.

These real-world learning opportunities for students at Cambridge, Fraser and Ngaruawahia High Schools, Te Kauwhata College and Waikato Diocesan School for Girls will continue to have a strong focus on STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths.

Preparing for a campylobacter outbreak, designing an enclosure for red pandas and working out how much fuel is needed to fly a plane are just a few of the real world SSEP activities that have so far shown students how the things they’re learning at school are relevant to future careers.

Smart Waikato chief executive Mary Jensen said the trust is excited to be delivering the initiative to more schools in the region thanks to support from Waikato Means Business and Waikato Federated Farmers Charitable Society, which has funded an agriculture-related SSEP at Te Kauwhata College.

“Through SSEP students learn how their school subjects are used in our region’s key industry sectors and gain valuable insight into potential careers. I am very pleased that hundreds more young people will have this advantage in 2017,” says Mary.

Invaluble connections

This year, about 50 employers representing thousands of staff have worked with SSEP students of all abilities.

Business representatives have visited the classroom and students have visited workplaces to see their school subjects applied on the job first-hand.

Smart Waikato will soon be calling for more businesses to be involved in the next stage of SSEP.

“Business people involved say it’s been valuable to work with schools, mentor students, connect with educators and to help shape the curriculum. It’s a win-win,” says Mary.

Thames High School piloted SSEP as part of its year 10 social studies curriculum.

A 10-week experiential business unit saw five social studies teachers and 125 students partnering with nine local businesses.

Business mentors from Smart Environmental, Pak n Save, A&G Price, Thames Community Centre, Thames Toyota, BNZ, SRE Electricians, Unichem Heather Moore Pharmacy and Thames-Coromandel District Council worked with students as they developed and sold their own products and services.

Students also visited their mentor’s workplace to find out about the business and see first-hand how what they learned in the classroom applied in the real world.

Principal Dave Sim said the new learning experiences and connections SSEP gave students with local employers were invaluable.

“We’ve been excited to develop what we’re doing in the business area and SSEP was a really good fit for our school. Without Smart Waikato’s input, enthusiasm, coordination and resources our business studies unit wouldn’t have been anywhere near as successful,” says Dave.

Thames social studies and economics teacher Malcolm Belton says he noticed positive changes in students participating in the initiative, including enhancing learning opportunities by reaching beyond the standard curriculum.

“They’ve learned self-management and leadership skills, how to delegate and meet deadlines. With SSEP we have embedded employability and social skills within the curriculum on top of the business skills they’ve learned,” he says.

About three-quarters of Malcolm’s year 10 class gained six Level 1 business studies credits through SSEP, based largely on the content and quality of their individual reports.
Teacher Rawinia McLean had noticed positive changes in some of her less confident students.

“I’ve noticed they are more outgoing, more willing to talk to other people and have more of an ‘I can do this’ attitude,” she says.

“The positive encouragement of the business mentors has seen them willing to give things a go. That’s been awesome to see.”

Another Thames teacher said workplace tours were well organised and enjoyed by the students.

“It opened their eyes to new experiences. They came back to school buzzing about the various things that they had seen.”

Find more information about Smart Waikato’s Secondary School-Employer Partnerships by visiting the SSEP webpage(external link) 

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:30 pm, 5 December 2016

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