Paths provided to employment

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A pilot programme that set out four years ago to make a difference for Central Otago’s at-risk youth is gaining traction.

Thanks to the Central Otago Youth Employment Programme, 50 pupils from Dunstan High School and Cromwell College have avoided falling through the cracks of New Zealand’s education system.

The programme was piloted at Cromwell College and Dunstan High School from 2017 and, this year has been expanded to include Mount Aspiring College and Wakatipu High School.

The programme connects 15-year-olds with potential employers, allowing them to learn on the job and work towards their NCEA over the course of a year.

Trades they were supported in included building, butchery, mechanics, farming, shearing, engineering, plumbing, bike mechanics and motorcycles.

Any credits the pupils require are worked through in the classroom, but only for as long as it takes.

The pupils are required to come into school one day a week, where they work towards a 95-credit work package programme, which is delivered through the Otago Polytechnic.

Through the programme pupils gain their literacy and numeracy credits plus a variety of skills to set them up in their chosen work industry.

There are 10 participants from each school on the programme.

Last year, 14 pupils from Cromwell College and Dunstan High School were offered apprenticeships/cadetships and the remaining six pupils stayed on at school to study Level 2 and Level 3 subjects.

Due to the programme’s success, it will be rolled out to all New Zealand high schools, potentially by the end of the year.

Facilitator Jenna Faulkner said she could not wait to know all children who fitted the criteria would get the extra support they required to ensure a bright future.

Mrs Faulkner said the programme had made improvements to the lives of so many children, many of whom were not interested in sitting in a classroom all day and, in some cases, had started slipping into patterns of truancy.

‘‘About 80% of the pupils work three to four days a week — they might do a oneday Trades Academy course at Otago Polytechnic, then do the COYEP work packages where they are in school for one day.

‘‘It gives the students those options and career paths and a lot have stayed on to do Level 2 and Level 3.’’

The Otago Polytech funds the programme.

Mrs Faulkner said for some participants, their days were long and the work was hard.

She welcomes anyone with a business who wants to invest in the programme to get in touch.

‘‘It’s a win-win,’’ she said. ‘‘I’m delivering them really good pupils — they have to meet certain qualities.’’

Those qualities include good time management and listening skills and being able to follow instructions.

Ultimately, they must have a ‘‘willingness to learn and further their career’’ in their chosen industry.