8 January 2012
In WelTec Trades Academy’s first year a whopping 94 percent of the 77 students who signed on have gained NCEA level 2
passes. That’s set a high benchmark and with an expected cohort of 125 students this year Dean Trish Collett is keen to
see it emulated.
“We had very high retention rates,” says WelTec Trades Academy Dean Trish Collett. “That suggested students were happy
coming here. Particularly since those students who gained NCEA level 2 were students who had struggled at school.”
WelTec’s Trades Academy was born out of Government’s concern about the lack of engagement of many young people in
education past the age of 16. They had seen Trades Academies working well in other countries and last year 13 such
academies were set up NZ-wide.
WelTec took the model one step further and put in a bid to create a full-time trades academy where students could come
into the polytechnic and participate in foundation education. It is providing a supportive secondary experience in a
tertiary adult environment and it’s free.
The Trades Academy is a partnership between WelTec and secondary schools. Schools tell students about it, parents hear
about it, they put in an application and go through an interview process.
There are no fees for the course and a range of seven trades were available – automotive, building, creative technology,
hair and beauty, hospitality, mechanical engineering and plumbing.
“The response was superb. We were excited,” says Trish Collett.
“We’re not looking for a student to have the best of abilities; we just want them to have the desire to be here. These
are people who are going back to school and wondering ‘is this really what I want to do?’”
The students aim is to complete NCEA level 2, gain a national trades certificate in each of those areas and complete the
WelTec certificate in vocational training in that particular discipline.
The nice thing about the Trades Academy’s dual enrolment model is that students, who would probably leave school except
for the fact that they might be playing for the first fifteen, can retain the links with the school for sporting and
One of Wellington College’s star sportsmen is a prime example. He plays rugby league and softball for the school. When
he did his plumbing course at WelTec he was still able to go with his school softball team and play in the nationals. It
was the best of both worlds for him.
Youth Transition Service coordinator Kerry Hand says that aspect of Trades Academy is great. “The fact that students can
stay on a school roll while they learn in a different environment where they can achieve NCEA level two as well as a
trades qualification is very positive.”
Kerry works with a lot of young people who are bordering on leaving school with no plans for the future.
She says Trades Academy is a really positive option for them. “Continuing their education at year 12 and 13 at a
polytechnic is more positive for some young people, especially if they’re already starting to disengage from school,”
she says. “It puts some of the onus to be successful back on them”
At the end of the course, some students were very clear that the area they’d chosen was the area they wanted to pursue –
a number have already been snapped up by employers. Others decided that it wasn’t for them. But even though they would
not pursue that particular career they had been able to look around the polytechnic, experience how it operates, and
gain foundation skills to be able to transition to other areas – and all for no fees.
“With our cohort of students we realised we needed to increase numeracy and literacy skills, and most particularly
work-readiness,” Trish Collett says.
Young people have skills but often lack confidence, self-belief and awareness of what the world of work requires. So a
great deal was done to develop teamwork skills, stressing the importance of punctuality, workplace etiquette and
Trish Collett says that by connecting the learning with a trade, that learning suddenly had relevance The students
enjoyed the hands-on practical application of their education.
“For me, it was really exciting when, for students who had been very difficult to engage, the light suddenly went on and
they started to value themselves.
“There are a lot of young people who are floundering at the moment. It’s about not giving up on them but providing
boundaries and expectations.
“We’re simplifying the pathways and providing foundation skills but we’re also creating different opportunities.”
“One of the most rewarding aspects last year was the growth in maturity and self-confidence in these young people. And
when you have those two skills you are ready to go out into the world.”
“I think the polytechnic does this well. It’s the real world environment. It’s different from school, here students have
to be encouraged to develop independence and initiative because that’s what’s required to succeed.”
One student, Paul, was flown down to Gough’s in Christchurch for a diesel apprenticeship. “It was wonderful to think
that here was a young man who right from day one had a plan to be a diesel mechanic, and he couldn’t see the value of
staying at school for two more years and delaying it,” says Trish Collett.
“He has his apprenticeship now.”
Another student, Rachel, is doing a hairdressing apprenticeship.
Rachel was at College and dreaded every day. Her attendance levels were disastrous and she was going nowhere. All that
began to change however, the day a man from WelTec addressed her college assembly on the opportunities Trades Academy
Rachel knew she was never going to enjoy college but this sounded like it could be a way of sorting out what she wanted
to do for the future. She set about arranging an interview with WelTec and was accepted. That was a year ago.
Now her course complete, and with level 2 NCEA under her belt she set out to find an apprenticeship as a hairdresser.
And she found one at Rodney Waynes. Her future is looking brighter by the day and her parents are delighted.
She loved the Trades Academy environment. The fact that she was treated as an adult, that she was encouraged to take
responsibility for herself and, when she slacked off in her course, was quick to see that that was not going to help in
realising her goals and knuckled down to successfully complete the course.
Her calendar is full but she loves it and she says she owes it to Trades Academy. She says it’s the perfect way to get a
kick-start on the road to realising your dreams.
“We covered a lot of work preparation along with cold-calling and interviewing skills, so Rachel was really well groomed
when she went out to approach potential employers,” says Trish Collett.
“It’s about giving strategies and then seeing them come to fruition.”
This year the WelTec Trades Academy has potential for 125 students. They have extended the programme to combine the
building and plumbing programme - - and introduced a sport and recreation module.
The Sport and Recreation module is aligned to people keen to become something like a personal trainer The course covers
a lot of outdoor education, team building and coaching of school groups. And it covers anatomy and physiology so there
is potential to head into more advanced areas.
WelTec’s catchment area is from Wairarapa and Otaki down to Wellington proper.