Sometimes visions can grow from something small. A 15 year old boy from Hawke’s Bay wrote the following in his application to attend the new Hawke’s Bay Schools’ Trades Academy in 2012.
“Since I was little I’ve wanted to work as a builder – I love this sort of work and can’t imagine doing anything else. I will be able to use these [trades] skills to help my family. I really want a job. I want to do something that helps my hometown.”
And a 16 year old girl (and teenage mother) from the East Coast wrote in her application:
“I want to be a better person. I want a nice life and future for me and my baby, but most of all I want to make my Mum proud of me – I want to be something.”
The Hawke’s Bay Schools Trades Academy is due to open in 2012 on EIT’s Hawke’s Bay campus. In addition, the Academy will also operate on EIT’s Tairāwhiti campus for the Gisborne and East Coast schools. For one day per week, students from schools all over the region will attend the Academy to take part in a range of tertiary programmes, from hard trades, to hospitality, to hair and beauty, to animal care.
The intended outcome is retention of these students in the education system, achievement of NCEA Level 2 with the help of the additional tertiary credits, and the opening up of pathways to future education, training and work.
This Academy is a partnership between EIT, the regions’ secondary school Principals, staff, students and their parents, and local industry who are helping with materials, plans, mentors and learning assistants. The Academy has generated huge interest, and as I write I’m looking at 245 formal applications for 160 places across Hawke’s Bay and the East Coast – they are all signed by the student, their parents, and the school. All contain personal statements from each student as to their hopes and dreams for an Academy place. Some from up the coast are written in Mãori – a wonderful testament to a bilingual society tucked away in the farther reaches of our region.
Encouraging positive response
This positive response is not typical in all regions that are running Trades Academies, and this is what gives me such hope for the future of Hawke’s Bay. Here, we already have models of high trust partnerships that we can work with to achieve what must surely be the key vision for everyone in the Bay – 100% of our young people in education, training or work, contributing positively to the economic, social and cultural fabric of our communities.
Evidence of these partnerships at ground level is everywhere. Last week I visited a group of carpentry students who were working with the Department of Conservation to build and install picnic tables, seats and paths at A’Deanes Bush near Onga Onga. This group, mostly young men, mostly Mãori, are the focus of a partnership between a local Taiwhenua, EIT and the Ministry of Social Development.
All of these young people looked me in the eye, shook my hand, told me about what they were doing. They come from backgrounds that most of us would find unthinkable, but they have picked themselves up, and three found work within weeks of starting the course. Others are enjoying work experience with some incredibly supportive employers in the region … and exceeding those employers’ expectations. Kaumatua, kuia and family members are mentoring, nagging, and monitoring attendance and achievements. Various community groups are providing project work for the students and in so doing are gaining access to otherwise unaffordable constructions and repairs. Dedicated tutors take an active interest in these youth as whole people with partners, many with babies on the way, and some with children already.
A recent evaluation of this programme drew some great written feedback from the students involved. They appreciated their “awesome” tutors; getting out and about and meeting so many people; learning the mathematics in the context of their building work that they had not bothered or been able to learn at school; being able to see their carpentry projects through from start to finish; and bonding together as a group, leaving gang affiliations at the gate each day. One student also commented that the course would “teach me to be a better person within myself – you can always talk to someone if you need to.”
This is a wonderful example of a region-wide partnership that can influence two generations – young people and their own children – and in doing so contribute to breaking the cycle of youth underachievement and unemployment that dogs Hawke’s Bay.
A transition trust
I met recently with people from one of our local councils, and the Ministry of Social Development. We were brainstorming a concept by which a Hawke’s Bay-wide trust or entity of some sort could be formed to ensure that all of the excellent work going on to help young people make good transitions to adulthood and to work could be better co-ordinated and more effective.
We all agreed that employers were a key component of any such trust, particularly those willing to look beyond the immediate profit line, take risks for the longer term good of the region and contribute to the training and mentoring needs of some of the young people I have described. And that somehow we all needed to get people excited about a shared vision for our work.
Recently a campaign ran in local newspapers featuring regional identities who wanted a ‘Better Hawke’s Bay’. I’d like to suggest that a better Hawke’s Bay starts with people like the ones I have featured in this article stepping outside their comfort zones and the confines of their organisations’ current policies and ways of working. These people have been willing to lay aside egos and ignore territorial issues, combine funding, and focus on doing the right thing as opposed to always doing the thing right.
If the carpentry students can leave their gang colours at the gate before starting their programme each day, so can we.
It’s happening at ground level everywhere in Hawke’s Bay, and there is no stopping this region once central and local government, the education, health and other sectors all commit to actively breaking down the barriers that currently divide so many of us. Only then can we further explore what can be achieved if we do things differently and collaboratively, and always, always have our young people as the centre of our efforts. They are the future of Hawke’s Bay.