Hands-on learning hooks students into local job options

Going on to tertiary studies after leaving school isn’t always the best option for all senior students, and Queen Charlotte College in Marlborough is finding its hands-on training in aquaculture is perfect for students with a practical bent and a passion for the outdoors.

Many students at Queen Charlotte College have family in the local fish farming industry, which is huge in the region, and some go on to jobs with local companies after graduating. But the skills they learn on the college’s aquaculture course open an array of opportunities.

The school’s principal, Betty Whyte, says, "We have had students going into the forces such as the Navy with their boating skills; two went off and did super yachts skippering and crewing; some go off into scuba diving, and one student went to study marine biology."

Betty says the course has been effective at picking up some students who weren’t succeeding generally, and helping them to achieve. "If you find something they are passionate about, they will excel."

Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic species like fish, shellfish and plants. In Picton, where Queen Charlotte College is based, mussel and salmon farming is a key industry. The sector provides a clear jobs path within the local community, and there are close links between the school and companies such as King Salmon. Each year the top student is awarded a scholarship through the Marine Farming Association to develop further skills in aquaculture. Some students continue on to do aquaculture diplomas.

Betty believes the partnership model could be adopted elsewhere, as there is potential for schools in many regional areas to provide learning opportunities that align with their local economy. "It could be tourism, or forestry, or agriculture – every area has something that schools can hook into."

The focus for some students is academic learning, while others develop practical skills such as boat driving, as the course is a mix of hands-on experience and learning in the classroom. In 2018 there were 40 students on the course. The students have the opportunity to get out onto a barge where they learn to drive it, or dive off it as they develop diving skills.


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