Queen Elizabeth College Principal Chris Moller, has seen how Trades Academy programmes benefit students from as early as Year 11.
Queen Elizabeth College (QEC), a co-educational school in Palmerston North, gives its students the opportunity to study U-Skills Trades Academy programmes at UCOL |Te Pūkenga. U-Skills programmes allow Year 11 to 13 students to attend classes at UCOL one or two days per week to develop industry-relevant skills.
In 2022, QEC and UCOL partnered to deliver a Level 1 Intro to Trades programme for Year 11 QEC students. The programme gives students a taste of construction, automotive engineering, and mechanical engineering. It includes 29 NCEA credits.
This year, Intro to Trades expanded to include students from Palmerston North Boys' High School and Te Kura Correspondence School.
The aim of the programme is for students to find a trade they enjoy and then progress onto the relevant Level 2 and 3 U-Skills programmes.
UCOL Te Pūkenga had been running Intro to Trades at Otaki College for a few years prior, and it caught Chris' attention.
"We wanted to develop new practical programmes for Year 11 students. We looked at a range of things, but the UCOL programme at Otaki interested me because I could see an increasing number of pupils that were not heading to university and wanted to get the skills to do apprenticeships. That vocational pathway was something we were looking to develop," says Chris.
"Some of these students aren't hugely engaged in school, but getting the chance to spend one day a week at UCOL excited them and opened their eyes up to a tertiary institution. It showed them that high school has a pathway to lead them into further study, training, or work."
Since 2015, 75 QEC students have enrolled in U-Skills programmes. Chris says having U-Skills courses available from Years 11 to 13 has been beneficial because it creates a natural flow for the pupils, many of whom go on to study UCOL after they finish Year 13.
"The good thing about starting them in Year 11 is that a lot of these kids have really good skills anyway. The age isn't that important – it's about the readiness of the pupil."