Trades training cooks up pathway to jobs at Northland College

Issue: Volume 96, Number 9

Posted: 29 May 2017
Reference #: 1H9d5B


Latte making

From latte-making to cow milking, practical training in solid work skills is being served up at Northland College, in the far North, which has a full-size professional catering kitchen that can feed 200 hungry people, and a working farm.

The trades training programme at the college is aimed at getting students ready for real-life work, so that they can leave school knowing how to drive a tractor, cook meals and run a kitchen, or chop down trees and manage forests.

They can either find a job immediately, or go onto further specialist study in a particular career area.

The college is now being rebuilt by the Ministry in a $14 million upgrade due for completion in early July, and which promises to ramp up the achievement levels.

The new facilities include 21 teaching spaces, a multi purpose gym, technology area and library, as well as the kitchen.

But the principal, Jim Luders, has more in mind than just enjoying his sparkling new school. He’ll be using it not only to improve academic achievement, but to spark a revolution in the township.

Jim says the brand new school offers the potential to be turning point for the long-struggling community of Kaikohe, which has high welfare dependency and unemployment, limited work skills and low academic achievement.

The college’s unique trades training teaches practical work skills to complement its academic training, and that can open doors to jobs or qualifications in fast-growing fields like forestry, farming and hospitality, in the North and elsewhere.

All these fields are crying out for work-ready staff with the right skills and attitude.

That’s where the college’s working farm, forest and kitchen come in, by making graduates work-ready. The hospitality course is particularly popular, he says.

And flat whites served up at catered events can be made from the college’s own cows raised and milked on the farm by students.

The forestry and farm-related training programmes are blended, so participants get experience in both fields at levels 1, 2 and 3.

Jim says such practical training helps students learn how to self-manage, and allows other learning opportunities. “The hospitality course teaches them what employers expect from staff, such as working nights and weekends, and about customer service and working at pace.”

In 2013 Jim was appointed to his role as principal to rescue the school, which had substandard buildings, a collapsing roll, and low achievement levels – all well publicised in the media.

He’s set himself a big challenge. But he believes the school’s new buildings will be the turning point for a fresh start. “I want the new school to be a journey to the stars ... and for students to use it to leverage opportunities to live their dreams.

“Getting young people skilled and qualified is the way ahead for this community, where in some families there’s been three generations of unemployment, and ongoing benefit reliance. We must break that cycle.”

The focus at the school will be on years 9 and 10, which Jim sees as the make-or-break group. “Raising literacy and numeracy levels are essential, so we will be concentrating on those foundation skills, to prepare students for the real workplace.”

Currently, the school operates out of multiple old buildings which are aged and in poor condition, spread over its site. The new school is housed in a large single building with modern, world class facilities.

“It’s a deal breaker. We now have massive opportunities for a mind shift.”

His students already have an advantage, Jim believes. At the college, 97% are Maori and there is high te reo proficiency amongst them. Jim sees that as a big plus.

“I can pretty much guarantee that having strong work skills, academic achievement, and speaking the Reo, is going to be a highly valued skills package for the future workforce.

“Tourism is growing fast in this area, and there are boundless other options in high growth fields such as health services, agriculture and forestry, for example.

“I’m excited. The only way is up.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:00 am, 29 May 2017

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