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Taranaki Schools Celebrate Vocational Excellence Winners with Prime Minister’s Awards

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Taranaki schools acknowledge this year’s recipients of the Prime Minister’s Award for Vocational Excellence.

“This award recognises outstanding students enrolled in vocational programmes who have shown they have what it takes to develop the skills, knowledge and attributes to build a career in industry,” says Careers and Transition Education Association (CATE) National President and Sacred Heart Girls’ College Pathways leader, Warwick Foy.

Introduced in 2019, the Prime Minister’s Award for Vocational Excellence, and the $2,000 monetary prize, can be awarded to the top Year 12 or 13 secondary student enrolled in vocational programmes of learning. One student is eligible per school or wharekura.

“Students all over New Zealand excel in building their vocational knowledge and this is one way to recognise them for their success. When we consider tertiary education, we normally think of universities but the majority of our learners enter other forms of tertiary education such as polytechnics, apprenticeships and workplace learning”.

The purpose of the award is also to raise the status of vocational education and ensure it is seen as an attractive option for rangatahi as they leave school. Taranaki Futures and CATE Taranaki have cooperated to highlight the award and encourage other regions to follow.

“This award and collective acknowledgement is one way we recognise the success of all learners and acknowledge the different ways and settings that young people shine.”

2021 Taranaki Prime Minister’s Vocational Excellence Award Winners

Coastal Taranaki School: Phoenix Papa
Phoenix followed a dairy farming pathway and had work placements on various farms in the coastal community. He gained a level 3 qualification in agriculture from WITT and has secured future employment on a farm where he will be continuing his agriculture studies in pasture and stock management under the guidance of his employer and PITO in 2022.  

Francis Douglas Memorial College: Ben Hughes

Ben demonstrates all the skills and attributes that are needed to enable him to succeed in the workplace and is courteous and absolutely reliable. Ben had a work placement with Gopperth Contracting and is now working full-time.


Hāwera High School: Kayla Ryan
Kayla gained NCEA Level 3 and, in addition, completed a Gateway Placement at Kiwi Clubhouse Early Learning Centre. Through her placement, she secured paid after-school work in an OSCAR programme and next year Kayla will be working at Kiwi Clubhouse Early Leaning Centre and starting her study towards an Early Childhood qualification. Polite, mature and well-rounded, Kayla has strong self-management, a positive attitude, and a cheerful disposition.

Inglewood High School: Kodie Sarich
Kodie had placements at DMR in Inglewood and Cervus Equipment in Stratford and has completed an  Automotive Microcredential qualification with MITO & Trades Academy L2 Automotive. He is now employed by Cervus and is commencing a Service Technician Apprenticeship in 2022.

New Plymouth Boys High School: Zac Andrews

All year Zac has been hardworking, reliable, highly organised, and self-disciplined. He has balanced a busy school workload with a part-time job relief milking on his parent’s farm as well as attending his electrical Gateway placement one day a week. Zac has had great success on the Gateway Programme, he has impressed his employer at Scott Electrical Solutions so much they have started the process of applying through ETCO to begin Zac’s apprenticeship with them.  

New Plymouth Girls High School: Ishbel Black
Ishbel had a dream of graduating from NPGHS in 2021 with University Entrance so she can enrol in the Bachelor of Veterinary Science degree at Massey. She completed her Equine Studies in trades every year from Year 11 to Year 13.  Ishbel demonstrated reliability, trustworthiness, and a pure passion to learn rudimentary horsemanship to the best of her ability, to achieve her dream of becoming a vet.

Opunake High School: Brody Fox

Brody obtained a work placement through the Gateway Programme with a local builder, who has since offered Brody a full-time apprenticeship position. Brody plans to use the prize money from the award to assist him to purchase the tools and equipment he requires for the building trade.

Sacred Heart Girls College: Alexandrea (Alex) Shearman
Alex has worked at Electric-L as a Gateway electrician and completed the Skills Org Electrical Gateway package. She was highly regarded by her employer due to her skills, reliability, and work ethic. As a result, she has now gained employment at First Gas.

Spotswood College: Chase Astwood
Chase has always shown a motivated and focussed approach to his schooling and it has been his high level of energy and self-direction that has helped him reach his potential and goals. His ability to commit to his individualised learning program by setting clear goals has meant his time in Gateway and Trades Academy has been one of success, resulting in an apprenticeship offer in engineering and fabrication.

Stratford High School: Brayden Fale
Brayden has had a placement with Field Torque Taranaki and completed a MITO – Micro-credential StartUp Ignition Automotive Level 2 qualification. He has also secured an apprenticeship with his gateway placement starting in 2022.

Waitara High School: Hayley Lopusiewicz
Hayley has successfully completed the WITT Hairdressing Trades Academy and also completed a one-day work experience each week with Verve Hair Design. Hayley has shown resilience and determination throughout the year in completing these whilst carrying a significant and ongoing knee issue. She has fulfilled the criteria for the award with her positive, can-do attitude. Hayley is a consistently respectful student who is always open to learning and is motivated to work hard towards her goals.

Taranaki Diocesan School for Girls: Ronaele Jones

Ronaele is a Year 12 who this year worked through WITT to achieve her Level 2 Agriculture Certificate. She is planning on transitioning into tertiary next year and doing her Level 3 Agriculture Certificate


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