Local employer talks provide career launch pads for students

A programme of career talks by local employers at Waimate High School is setting school leavers on the path towards successful careers.

Many rural schools negotiate the challenges of connecting their students with employment pathways outside their immediate area. Educators feel a sense of responsibility to raise student awareness of potential opportunities, especially when employers can seem far away.

For Waimate High School Careers Advisor Di McKenzie, the solution was getting on-board with the South Canterbury Youth Transistion Initiative ‘My Next Move’ facilatated by the local Economic Development Agency ‘Aoraki Development’.

“Because we are a small town, a lot of our students don’t think outside of our town,” she says, “so for us it’s really about awareness for our students of many different jobs they won’t necessarily have heard of. 
The programme gives us an opportunity to bring in speakers from around the whole district, and just really paints a much bigger picture.”

The career talks started in 2017 as part of the South Canterbury Youth Transition Initiative ‘My Next Move’, which facilitates a variety of engagements between students, parents, schools and businesses throughout the region including guest speakers, mentors, sector and activity days.

Backed by the Canterbury Mayoral Forum and funded by the Ministry of Social Development, the initiative aims to educate and excite all secondary school students and teachers about opportunities and career pathways around the district. There is also a focus on ensuring local businesses have an understanding of the education system.

More informed course selections

Chief Executive of Aoraki Developments Nigel Davenport says the initiative supports robust decision making early on in secondary students’ subject pathways, with a commitment to exposing all Year 9 and 10 students to a minimum of four industry sectors annually.

Leighton Bray fixes the tail door on a fertiliser trailer  at Headford Propagators.

Leighton fixes the tail door on a fertiliser trailer at Headford Propagators.

“The big thing we’re hearing now in our second year of running this,” he says, “is that these students are having more informed discussions about their NCEA course selection when they sit down with their career advisors and deans at the end of Year 10.

“Now the students are saying: ‘Well I’ve been out to visit, or have heard from, these 20 different industries, and these 15 aren’t really me, but I quite like the look of that civil engineering, or that logistics operator down at the port…’.”

Di says that the programme has ensured speakers from a range of industries have visited her school.

“In 2018 one of the business representatives that participated in the programme was Headford Propagators CEO Grant Hayman, whose company specialises in nursery, transport and engineering services.”

Grant gave a presentation at Waimate High School, which resulted in a conversation between himself and Year 12 student Leighton Bray. After completing two weeks of work experience in the school holidays, Leighton now works as an apprentice engineer at the company.

“Engineering was something I was looking into, because I did a welding course through school and then built a trailer, but I’d chosen building as my Gateway programme and it wasn’t really me,” says Leighton.

“I approached my teacher as the year was ending, before Grant came in to do his talk, and told her that my Gateway wasn’t really a good fit. She asked me what sort of other options I’d be interested in doing and engineering was one of the things that I said. So as soon as the talk finished and Grant had said they had engineering, she grabbed me and we went up and approached him.”

Keeping an open mind

After two onsite visits while he was finishing his Level 2 studies, Leighton started his apprenticeship on 7 January this year.

So far he has enjoyed learning different welding techniques and applying them to various materials.

His advice for teachers wanting to support young people like him in their transition from school to the workplace in rural communities is to help students keep an open mind and experiment with potential career paths before committing to one.

He credits his current job satisfaction with the way his Gateway subject and work experience let him try out multiple disciplines to find a good fit for him.

Nigel says, ‘My Next Move’ aims to educate and excite students about the variety of career pathways and educational opportunity available to them.

“I think the beauty here is that in South Canterbury, we’ve got a really diverse industry base, which means our students can be exposed to such a wide variety of different business and career opportunities,” says Nigel.

“It’s just worked out perfectly,” says Di, “that we had the speaker in and it was at a time when Leighton was in the right mind to ask.”

Source: Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero

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