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WorldSkills NZ Electrical Interschool Events

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There is an age-long battle to better connect industry with school students. One programme is
making a step change. Six Interschool Electrical Competitions, run by WorldSkills New Zealand, were held in Hamilton, Napier, Timaru, Dunedin, Christchurch and Invercargill between late-May and mid-June bringing together students from local secondary schools with the electrical sector across New Zealand.
They have connected 17 schools, 23 student teams, and industry through dynamic and fun
simulations of real work-life. Laura McLeod from Shirley Boys’ High School in Christchurch and Josie Hunter from Karamu High School in Hastings were two of the many teachers, careers advisors and Gateway Coordinators who attended the events across the country. Laura, a Gateway Coordinator, says the Christchurch event was incredibly well run and well organised. “It was an overwhelmingly positive experience. The events are exactly what schools need. More schools from Christchurch and across New Zealand would benefit from getting on board next year.”

During each event, Year 11-13 students completed six fast-paced and inventive modules under
the theme of an accommodation refit for “Lebowski the Cat”. Each module involved a variety of
real-world tasks such as wiring up a miniature house, quickly-but-safely driving a “work van”
(trolley cart) to collect gear from the depot, crawling across a mock ceiling cavity and working
under floor spaces complete with spiders and cobwebs. The competitors learnt from St John
Community Education Staff and had the opportunity to show off their own First Aid skills during
the first aid module. For Laura, a big part of the success of the day was the industry presence and being alongside the Master Electricians Apprentice Challenge which gave school students a view of apprentices at work and a chance to speak with the employers that were there.
“Often, we go along to events, and they are dominated by the tertiary providers and not so
much industry. The industry component was one of the big drawcards for me.”
Not only were the events successful at bringing people together, they were also a whole lot of
fun. “I could tell by the smiles on our students’ faces that they just loved the day. They came first in
the wiring component element, and they were just so proud of themselves when the fan
worked, and the light came on. That was really cool.” Josie Hunter, a Careers Advisor, attended the Napier event with her students who really enjoyed the hands-on nature of the competitions, having to interact with one other, communicate and problem solve. Alongside the competition was guidance from volunteers who brought with them many years of industry experience. Some also brought the additional atmosphere and friendly banter as mock site foremen.

This dynamic between the students and the volunteers was one thing that really stood out for
Josie. “The volunteers were people who had worked in the industry and now were giving their time to
the younger people. They were very good at engaging the students. They monitored them
during the activities and gave them little tips along the way. I think this worked really well. They
knew how to manage students with different levels of knowledge and confidence, nuture them
along to make the competition a positive experience for all. They ensured that everyone felt like
they achieved something.” Carl Rankin, WorldSkills New Zealand GM, is really pleased with the results. He says this is the first year WorldSkills NZ has run skill competitions with secondary schools.
“In late 2021, we secured Ministry of Education funding to run these six events. We extended
our WorldSkills NZ competition format as a catalyst to connect schools, communities, and
employers. It’s been a fun and successful way for secondary school students to get a taste of
vocational careers in the electrical industry. The students that competed have gained a greater
understanding of the industry, where some will choose to pursue careers and others may decide
not to. Either way they are more informed and aware of employment opportunities.”

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