Mahurangi College officially opened a new construction academy last Thursday with an evening that provided the opportunity for tradespeople to meet potential future apprentices.
The new facility is a 150sqm undercover concrete workshop with the latest industry-standard tools, including three drop saws, portable table saws, and battery and pneumatic nail guns.
Academy director Hugo Vaughan says since students began the course three months ago they have learned how to safely use tools and feel confident that they could complete a task given by an employer.
“I believe students need to add value for employers from day one. Some students didn’t know how to read a tape measure when they started, but they have grown tremendously.
“I’ve been in education a long time, and I have seen the benefit of students getting real life work experience in school. There are kids here who might have struggled academically but are very clever and have shown enormous talent in the workshop.”
So far, students have made several garden benches, picnic tables, a garden shed and a playground box. For the rest of the year they will work on 10sqm portable cabins.
Currently, there are 14 students in Year 13 at the academy as well as 17 students in Year 12.
“The Year 12s will start next year with a strong base of skills, so we are planning to build a ‘tiny house’ with them and want to find a client who will liaise with the students about what they want throughout the process.
“We will look to secure that client by the end of the year and start building in January, with a view to complete a second house by the end of 2020. The client will be getting a great quality product at a good price, and will be able to inspect the progress at any time.”
All of the academy students are enrolled with apprenticeship provider BCITO, which will assess students’ work and register credits toward their apprenticeship as well as to their NCEA portfolio.
As part of the academy’s programme, the students do a weekly work experience day with a tradesperson in trades such as plumbing, bricklaying, carpentry or electrical to get an idea about what they might like to pursue.
Last week, the first student was offered a full apprenticeship after a builder came to the academy, saw him working and was impressed by the quality of his work and his attitude.
“That kind of meaningful interaction with employers is exactly what we want for the kids,” Mr Vaughan says.
“We want to acknowledge three sponsors who have made building the academy possible, providing $50,000 in labour and materials – Wharehine Concrete, Advanced Concrete Pumping, and Dean Grice, from Footings and Floors Concrete. They took the time to involve the students in the building of their own workshop.”
Assistant principal Jon Blyth says the academy is part of a shift towards teaching skills that are directly transferrable to the workforce.
“We decided that rather than going down the traditional route of a woodwork or metalwork room, we would teach these kids skills like how to be site safe or how to change a drop saw blade, so that they are work-ready when they enter apprenticeships,” he says.
“After talking to local industry, we found that those are the types of skills tradespeople are looking for.”