Connecting rangatahi to employment opportunities – Ōpōtiki College
Earlier in 2020, all Year 9 and 10 students at Ōpōtiki College were invited to attend an inaugural Aspirations Week. The week-long education to employment event saw students participating in a range of experiences around the Ōpōtiki community, opening their eyes to possible employment opportunities on their doorstep.
The programme is aimed at Year 9 and 10 students as an incentive for students to stay at school, says Ōpōtiki College Aspirations coordinator Alison Waller.
“We have noticed over the years that if we can keep our students into Year 11, then they will typically complete college with a minimum of NCEA Level 2. To ensure we give our students a reason to stay at school, we decided to focus on Year 9 and 10 students so they could have an idea of why they are really learning.”
Ōpōtiki College principal Susan Impley is passionate about the programme.
“We have a real vision to ignite and empower our rangatahi to create their future. Programmes such as Aspirations enable and embody this vision.
“For the future we want every child to leave with a kete full of the qualifications, skills and personal attributes that gives them a quality pathway and demonstrates that they have dreamt it, explored it and activated it to thrive in life after secondary school,” says Susan.
Strong community support
Engaging the wider community in such an initiative wasn’t difficult for Alison.
Ōpōtiki is a small town with a predominantly Māori population, and there is a strong sense of cultural identity and a desire to support local communities. The initiative has been well supported by both the Whakaatu Whanaunga Trust and Whakatōhea Maurua.
Anita Kurei-Paruru, an advisor for Whakatōhea Maurua Education Strategy, said the programme was well supported by whānau, hapū, Iwi and kura, and the relationships between these different groups, which had developed only recently, made the vision achievable.
“One of Whakatōhea Maurua’s strategy outcomes, which we focused on in 2018, was Developing Partnerships and Relationships, and this came to the fore. This year we are focused on Quality Teaching, and this initiative truly exemplified the relationships our kaiako have with our community, and in some cases need to have with our community,” says Anita.
In partnership with Alison, Anita put together a four-day programme, which was supported by the Ministry of Education. It included visits to the Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board, the dairy farm and mussel factory building site belonging to the local Iwi, Ōpōtiki Harbour, and Hayes Engineering.
In addition, they attended presentations from local iwi artists Tangimoe Clay and Hee Collier and the local council’s workforce and administration support officer, Caitlin Papuni-McLellan. The students were also invited to Ōpōtiki District Council to share their insights for the development of an upgraded skate park and town development.
Visiting a mussel factory in Ōpōtiki.
A unique ecosystem
The relationships between the different groups quickly came to represent an ecosystem, described by Anita as “our community interreacting from developed partnerships and relationships within our dynamic environment”.
“Within this ecosystem everyone works together in order to provide rangatahi with the opportunity to see the many taonga Ōpōtiki has to offer,” she says.
Inspiring the programme and underpinning the vision of Aspirations is manaaki: giving, providing, allowing, sharing, enhancing and listening.
“Support also comes from the District Council, who have a vested interest in ensuring that our students become responsible citizens and reliable ratepayers,” Alison adds.
Building on success
The preliminary programme was deemed a success and both Alison and Anita are looking forward to the second Aspirations event.
“Our community got to meet our rangatahi, and our rangatahi got to see their community. Every day was a success – scary at first. But in a teaching, organisational capacity, you get to see the ‘community’ through their eyes. They get to hear from homegrown Ōpōtiki people, share their stories of challenges and successes,” says Anita.
The kōrero of the rangatahi has also been taken into consideration for future events.
“We acknowledge the rangatahi evaluations, and many of them responded saying: more doing and less talking,” adds Anita.
The first stage of Aspirations was more of a hui where students listened to adults describing their roles, and how they gained employment; the second phase will be more practical.
“The students will be selecting a project brief and working in teams to complete it with help from staff and adult mentors from across the local community,” says Alison.
The main inspiration for the programme will continue to lie at the core of any future adaptations.
“It’s all about getting rangatahi ready for the world of work. We’ve got so many jobs here in the Eastern Bay and it’s just getting their eyes open,” says Alison.
“We are working together to fully utilise what we have here in Ōpōtiki and our surrounding district – our little town, the gateway to the Coast.
“In growing our own, we look after our own – and the historical impact they too will have on our rohe.”