When asked about her choice to study automotive engineering at UCOL, Keila Allen says she didn’t need much convincing.
"I've been interested in cars my whole life. My older cousin did a course at UCOL, and I wanted to give it a try too. Unfortunately, I was only year 9 at the time and had to wait until Year 12 to apply. Once I got into the U-Skills Automotive course, it was all go from there."
U-Skills programmes allow Year 11 to 13 students to attend classes at UCOL (or an approved site) one or two days per week to develop industry-relevant skills. Learners work towards NCEA credits or, in some programmes, can earn a tertiary qualification.
"In the middle of my first year in U-Skills, I knew I wanted to stick with it, so I applied for the New Zealand Certificate in Automotive Engineering Level 3, which is what I'm working on now."
Now in year 13, Keila spends three days a week at UCOL Whanganui studying her Automotive programme, and the other two at school. She says that it can be a bit of a balancing act keeping up with her UCOL coursework and high school studies.
"Initially, I had one day a week at UCOL during U-Skills, but now I've levelled up, doing three days in the workshop and two days at school. My school has been really supportive, but I have to make sure I stay on top of my regular schoolwork too.
"Though it can be a bit stressful at times, I know that the hard work will pay off once I complete all my exams and coursework."
Keila mentions the support she has received from UCOL kaimahi (staff) has helped make the move from high school to tertiary-level study easier.
"UCOL supervisors regularly check on our progress. If we're struggling, they offer support and assistance to help us get back on track. It's good to know we have the support when we need it."
During the first semester of her Level 3 programme, Keilia was awarded a UCOL Women in Trades Grant, which covered the cost of some new safety boots. This grant is designed to encourage more women into trades programmes.
When asked about the highlights during her time in the U-Skills Automotive programme, Keila says she really enjoyed the opportunity to have hands-on and real-life experience.
"In my first year, I learned all the basics like changing tyres, checking oil, and performing a full car service. Now, in my Level 3 Certificate, we're learning things like how to disassemble a single-head petrol engine and bleed fuel out of a diesel engine. It's pretty cool!"
When it comes to her future plans and goals, Keila says she's not sure what's in store just yet.
"I'm not really sure where want to end up, but I am looking forward to getting my first apprenticeship and a job in a workshop."
Keila says it isn't always easy, but tells people not to give up.
"Just absorb as much information as you can and stick with it!"