Ākonga (learners) from UCOL Te Pūkenga U-Skills Academy programmes have been recognised for their hard work and achievements at a series of prize-giving events.
U-Skills Academy programmes allow Year 11 to 13 students to attend classes at UCOL Te Pūkenga (or an approved site) one or two days per week to develop industry-relevant skills. Learners work towards NCEA credits or, in some programmes, can earn a tertiary qualification. Many of the U-Skills programmes act as stepping-stones towards tertiary study.
During November, prize-giving events were held in Masterton, Palmerston North, and Whanganui. Learners received certificates for completing their programmes and there were special awards for Outstanding Student, Improvement, and Dedication for each region.
Hayden Robinson, UCOL Te Pūkenga Director Secondary Tertiary, says it was great to hold the prize-giving events after COVID-19 restrictions stopped them the past two years.
"These events are special not only for the learners and their whānau, but also our staff who have supported them throughout the year. Our lecturers and transition coordinators work closely with their ākonga to help them achieve the goals, so we are incredibly proud when we get to present learners with their certificates."
"Completing a U-Skills Academy programme outside of school is a fantastic achievement for any learner. Ākonga obviously gain industry-relevant skills, but the self-confidence, problems solving skills, and teamwork skills they develop are just as valuable. U-Skills is about personal growth as much as it is about learning vocational skills."
UCOL Te Pūkenga had 802 learners participate in U-Skills programmes this year — 441 in Manawatū, 171 in Wairarapa, 135 in Whanganui, and 55 in Levin/Otaki. This is an increase from 764 in 2021.
"When U-Skills began in 2012, we had 81 enrolments. The support we've had from secondary schools is a key reason why U-Skills has grown so much over the past decade," says Robinson.
This year, UCOL Te Pūkenga introduced three new U-Skills Academy programmes — Barbering, Business Administration and Technology, and Defence Pathways.
Jet Norris, who was named the Outstanding Student for Whanganui, says U-Skills helped build his confidence and people skills.
"U-Skills was really cool. At first I was nervous, but it quickly became one of the most exciting parts of my week."
Norris chose to do the U-Skills health programme, as he has always had an interest in sport and exercise. He thought it would complement his work as a football referee. In the future, he plans to study sport and exercise at tertiary level.
For 2023, UCOL Te Pūkenga has worked with Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand to redesign the U-Skills Health programme. The revamped programme includes 14 credits towards students' university entrance.
UCOL Te Pūkenga Secondary Tertiary staff have also been tapping into Te Pūkenga network to explore ways to enhance U-Skills. Earlier this year, the team hosted their counterparts from Manukau Institute of Technology, Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki, and Waikato Institute of Technology. There, they discussed the different programmes they offer, how they report student achievements to schools, and the student management systems they use.
Image: Jet Norris receiving the Outstanding Student award from Hayden Robinson.