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School was never 15-year-old Riley Squires’ thing.

The year 11 Cromwell College pupil would find himself easily distracted and unable to focus in class.

But this year, the Central Otago Youth Employment Programme (COYEP) changed that.

Not every pupil fits the school mould and in-work education programme COYEP is helping them rediscover learning in a real-world environment.

Piloted at Cromwell College and Dunstan High School in 2017 then expanded to Mt Aspiring College and Wakatipu High School, COYEP is a collaborative initiative in which pupils spend one day at school completing NCEA literacy and numeracy work, then the remaining days doing work experience.

Work placements range from engineering and electrical through to hospitality and farming.

The programme is tailored to suit each pupil’s needs.

Riley splits his time between building with his dad Matt Squires and building company Hunter and Craig.

“With my dad we’re building a small sleepout so it’s not big but it’s still all the foundations of building.

“At Hunter and Craig it’s same but different – their houses are a lot more complicated, more modern and lots of parts to them.

“We do lots of varying jobs which is good for learning and all the different skills with how to build a house,” he said.

One day at school was “living the dream”.

“They’re trying to teach us real-world stuff – we’re doing things like how to fill out forms – it’s different from normal school,” he said.

COYEP programme manager Jenna Faulkner said the programme had seen positive outcomes with pupils continuing on to apprenticeships or returning to school to complete NCEA.