Supporting vocational aspirations with Outward Bound

Issue: Volume 101, Number 13

Posted: 12 October 2022
Reference #: 1HAX2v

In a previous issue of Tukutuku Kōrero, we outlined the new Whakatipu course at Outward Bound. In this issue, we look at the experiences of two students who took part.

The high ropes provided many challenges.

The high ropes provided many challenges.

The Whakatipu course at Outward Bound supports rangatahi who are on a vocational pathway from education to employment. Two students who are reaping the rewards of the workplace skills course are Ben Corlett and Tamara Hesketh.

Tamara is a Year 13 student at Taipa Area School. Having completed NCEA Levels 1 and 2, she is now doing a Gateway hospitality course through workplace training specialist Service IQ. The course includes a work placement, and for Tamara, that is taking place at Wild Nekta café in Taipa, Northland.

Tamara’s study and work placement reflect her passion for hospitality, in particular the food industry. Her passion bloomed in 2021 when she was chosen to represent Taipa Area School in the regional section of the National Secondary Schools Culinary Competition in Auckland.

Her competition challenge was to create an entrée using only broccoli (other than sauces and accompaniment). Through creativity, hard work and determination, Tamara won her section, and a place at the National Competition which was unfortunately cancelled due to Covid.

“I just thought, ‘why not?’ Might as well take the opportunity. We practised for weeks doing the cooking contest, and we went down to Auckland and I ended up winning.

“I thought, ‘I’ve got to keep doing this’, so I’ve just carried on with creating dishes and I just feel good making food for people,” explains Tamara.

Her work placement is helping to develop industry skills at a practical level, and the ability to learn on the job allows her to discover what is required in the hospitality industry.

“I’m learning so many new things such as communication skills, being customer friendly and being under pressure when making meals and stuff. It’s really training me up.”

Communication and empathy

Tamara feels more confident after the course.

Tamara feels more confident after the course.

Tamara’s communication skills and ability to work under pressure have been further developed through her participation in Outward Bound. She says she was uncertain about doing the course, but realised she needed to seize the once in a lifetime opportunity.

The benefits have been life-changing.

“They taught me to have a voice. I used to just stand there and listen to what people told me to do. Now I have more confidence to speak up and say my opinion, even if it is wrong, it’s good to just put it out there,” she says.

This ability to speak up and be confident was the start of the journey to learning leadership skills, which are important if Tamara is to achieve her dream of running a kitchen. Alongside this, Tamara learned how to step out of her comfort zone to achieve results. For Tamara, a key moment was at the start of the course when everyone had to jump off the side of a boat into the water. It was in August, so the water was cold.

“Some people had never been in this type of cold weather before because they’re from the city and so they would freak out and everyone would get a bit nervous. For example, we had to all wait patiently in the water for this one person to calm down and it was challenging because you’re freezing, and you want to get out of the water.”

From this experience Tamara learned patience, a virtue that was continually tested with other challenges. One of which was being paired up for a high tree challenge.

“We were getting up there and my buddy wasn’t very confident up in the trees. So once again, it was just being patient with them and just encouraging.”

Tamara has been able to transfer the skills she learned with Outward Bound to her work placement.

“I challenge myself so I have the confidence to do stuff out of my comfort zone and I now appreciate being patient and leading. I take that into my workplace because it’s a big thing in trying to be a chef.”

Tamara’s employer Hannah Thompson has also noticed a difference.

“Since returning from Outward Bound Tamara has taken on more. She steps up and manages things when I’m away and is a good role model for the other staff.

“She’s grown in confidence; she now tells the other staff what to do and is more upfront and open about discussing her view on things.”

Tamara is looking at joining the Navy to pursue her cooking career, as well as travel. Her ultimate dream is to have a Michelin star restaurant. Her advice for students considering Outward Bound is to take every opportunity as they will not regret it.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Ben wanted to enhance his team building skills.

Ben wanted to enhance his team building skills.

Ben is a Year 12 student at Wellington College, and a keen sportsperson selected for a Wellington under 16 representative team. He also enjoys the outdoors, including tramping.

A Gateway course and work placement are supporting Ben to pursue his aspiration to become a plumber.

“Every Wednesday I go out with a plumbing company, and I do a day’s work with them. Obviously, I don’t know how to do it all and I’m still learning so I just watch sometimes and then help where I can.”

The work placement has given Ben an insight into scheduling jobs and organising transport, as well as the skills and requirements for a variety of plumbing jobs. Ben says he has seen the importance of teamwork for a career such as plumbing, and so was thrilled to be accepted into Outward Bound.

“The main reason that I wanted to do Outward Bound was to develop myself as a person and be able to work better in a team.”

The eight-day course certainly provided many activities to do so, with Ben saying, “We did team building activities every night and we would have classroom sessions to learn more about how to work as a team.”

Both Ben and Tamara enjoyed the boating activities.

Both Ben and Tamara enjoyed the boating activities.

A bonding experience

The concept of team building was not just confined to classroom sessions. Ben observed that on the first day when they went sailing, people were not talking too much as they did not know one another. He then recalls the same key moment as Tamara, about how later in the day, everyone had to jump into the freezing cold water. After that experience, he says people started to bond.

“That taught me that if you experience something with someone such as going through pain or something difficult, where you must push your boundaries, then you bond with them. So that gave me insight into team building.

“It also taught me about resilience, because a lot of stuff we had to do used a lot of resilience to keep going.”

One activity that really tested the resilience of Ben and others was an overnight camp. Ben recalls it being wet and cold, and that the students did not have a track to follow and instead had to use a map and compass to find their way. That evening, they had a session to talk about how to unpack the activity and how to deal with challenging situations.

“One thing was having a positive mindset. So just staying positive, not thinking about the negative. Another one was being optimistic and thinking on the bright side to enjoy the moment.”

Mike Ellett, one of Ben’s teachers, says since Ben has come back from the course, he has been sharing his experiences with teachers and other students.

“He’s been telling me that, when you’re down or when you’re not quite performing at your level, you have got to keep going, work your way through that and try and focus on the positive things.”

Ben and his fellow students practising barber skills.

Ben and his fellow students practising barber skills.

Realising the opportunities of school

Mike has been delighted with Ben’s progress since doing the Gateway and Outward Bound courses. Initially at the start of the year, Ben was not interested in coming back to do Year 13, wanting to instead focus on getting a full-time apprenticeship. However, he has since changed his perspective.

“As the year has progressed, his rugby and his schoolwork has progressed. I feel that doing the Outward Bound course really opened him up to what is available out there. He’s virtually got his NCEA Level 2 now which is great and I think he knows that he can quite easily achieve Level 3,” explains Mike.

Mike has also noticed that Ben’s attitude, while always positive, has shone even brighter. He actively engages with the other students and looks to ways in which he can help.

This has even included acting as a model for fellow Gateway classmates who, inspired by having work experience at a barber shop, decided to practise their newfound skills on each other.

“He’s got the all the standards of honesty and integrity, he always comes across as a guy that I can really see a plumbing company throwing the keys to some very expensive gear and vans and trusting him, he’s just that kind of guy,” says Mike. 

Read more about Whakatipu Outward Bound in Education Gazette article, Rangatahi bound for success with new course to employment(external link).

Students are nominated for the Whakatipu course. PASTs can submit a potential candidate’s short bio to community development partner Krishan Kumar via email at

The students engaged in team building activities.

The students engaged in team building activities.

Shaping the direction of future pathways

Wellington College kaiako Mike Ellett is proud of Year 12 student Ben and says that he is a good example for others undertaking an employment course like Gateway, designed to shape the future direction of a student’s pathway.

The courses start by doing basic things like preparing a CV, researching areas that students are interested in, and mapping out a pathway from the classroom to a career. The nature of the courses means there is a lot of personal discussion and reflection.

“One thing that works is really getting to know the student, getting to know their family, getting to know their interests. That sort of relational aspect is super important when you’re helping guide them.”

The school will often also have guest speakers who come in to talk about their work, including different tradespeople such as plumbers. Mike says the students enjoy listening to the speakers who talk to them in a practical and honest way.

“They talk about how the basics are important, such as being on time, being well kept, being polite, getting on with your teammates and having the ability to solve your own problems.”

Mike usually spends his time working in his role as international director at the college, but the decrease in international students due to Covid-19 has meant spending more time in the classroom and more time working with the pathway students. He is enjoying the work and is delighted that current labour shortages in New Zealand are creating greater opportunities.

“We’re getting offers of apprenticeships and we’re getting all the trades bringing in apprentices to talk to the students. It’s just phenomenal as apprenticeships used to be as rare as hen’s teeth, so it’s just lovely to be able to give these guys something practical to aspire to.”

Mike Ellett is proud of his Wellington College students.

Mike Ellett is proud of his Wellington College students.

There is an element of supporting students to progress academically, but the focus is working with business and industry to connect the students to potential careers. This helps broaden the opportunities for students who are not so interested in, or are not able to do, further study.

 “The students see this as something they can achieve. This is not a teacher saying, ‘You can go and do this course and become a builder in four or five years.’ This is, ‘Hey, these people want to take you on and support you through a real-life apprenticeship.’ It helps them feel like there is a pathway for them as they can learn on the job.”

The school provides practical courses for students to develop trade skills. One of these is a construction course in which students are currently building and selling garden sheds.

As well as the in-school visits students also go into workplaces to find out more about different trades. Mike says students love being able to learn outside of the classroom. One example is a few students who recently went on a barber course.

“They came back with these brilliant videos of how barbers were getting these boys to put shaving cream on a balloon and then trying to shave it. Of course, it bursts, and the foam goes everywhere, it’s just hilarious. But they had a ball, and those guys were just tuned into the industry, and that is a big industry in Wellington.”

Mike says one of the keys for kaiako working with pathway students is finding ways to enhance interactions by building connections.

“One of the things that’s useful for a teacher to do is always introduce yourself really well, let them know your whakapapa, where you’re from, who you are, and what you like. Then ask the same of your student.

“You might find things such as students who are quiet, have a reason behind that. This process allows you to connect and try and open them up. Once they start opening up like that, you can then build a learning pathway that suits them.”

Mike acknowledges that their success with students is due to the work of the whole Pathway team at Wellington College, with their proactive and ever-developing approach to pathways. They are HOD Hamish Davidson, Gateway Coordinator Dawn Hall, Careers Coordinator Madeleine Simpson, and Gateway Construction teachers Ian Sims and Neville Paul.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 12:04 pm, 12 October 2022

Get new listings like these in your email
Set up email alerts