UCOL | Te Pūkenga and Naenae College have teamed up to introduce a new engineering course, opening the door for high school students to explore their passion for engineering.
The U-Skills course, which takes place every Friday at Lower Hutt's Naenae College, is giving Years 11 to 13 ākonga (learners) the opportunity to study tertiary education while still at school.
Hayden Robinson, UCOL's Director of Secondary Tertiary, explains there was an opportunity to get more Hutt Valley rangatahi into engineering, so UCOL stepped in to help set up the course and workshop at Naenae College.
"Naenae had space available and needed support getting it off the ground. We were keen to take on the project and help out the local schools down there, so we secured a grant through the Ministry of Education to deliver the course."
"We've since kitted out the engineering workshop for ākonga with tools, welders, welding screens, and all the necessary personal protective equipment. We also supplied ākonga with their own toolbox each complete with basic hand tools."
Elliot Robinson, a student at Naenae College, says he has really enjoyed the hands-on learning opportunities in the course.
"The course has been great so far. We're currently working on building a barbecue from old steel wheels and rims, and I've really enjoyed learning how to weld."
This collaborative effort goes beyond UCOL and Naenae College, says Robinson.
"It's really been a six-way partnership - with the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Development and local businesses. They've all played vital roles in bringing this course to life.
"The Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce will be supporting further work experience later in the year as well to try and get our ākonga out and into the industry. Not to mention, the Ministry of Social Development has also contributed some funding to support the pastoral care for our learners."
Danny Reilly, the Executive Dean of Engineering and Applied Technologies at UCOL, has played a key role in overseeing the programme and getting it off the ground.
Reilly says the course came about as a way to empower and inspire future engineers and progress them into work-based learning.
"It gives them a real taste of the industry and an opportunity for work experience. The ultimate goal is to open doors to apprenticeships and to help these ākonga kickstart successful careers.
"We're making sure that they see the wide range of career options available too. Before they started studying, they attended an industry day where they got to check out local businesses and see what it's really like to work there - not just the hands-on jobs, but also the design work, drawings, and office-based roles."
Robinson says ākonga pick up valuable engineering knowledge through the course.
"They get to grips with essential skills like using hand tools, working with materials, and mastering basic fabrication techniques, such as cutting, folding, shaping, and welding."
After completing their course, ākonga can choose to become an apprentice and get trade-qualified on the job, or pursue a Level 3 Certificate in Mechanical Engineering through Te Pūkenga.
This course currently has 14 ākonga, with 12 from Naenae College and two from Heretaunga College in Upper Hutt.
Find out more about UCOL's U-Skills progrmm offerings here.