Friday 23 June 2017

Working together to provide Vocational Pathways opportunities

A group of secondary schools in Southland and West Otago has found a way to provide new courses using Vocational Pathways for their students.

Offering a wide range of subject options at a small secondary school can be tricky.
A group of secondary schools and two tertiary providers in the South Island has pulled together to provide hands-on learning opportunities for their students, created along the lines of Vocational Pathways.
The Hokonui Tertiary High School (HTHS) is made up of St Peter’s College (Gore), Gore High School, Menzies College (Wyndham), Blue Mountain College (Tapanui), Northern Southland College (Lumsden), Fiordland College (Te Anau), with support from the Hokonui Runanga.
The courses are provided through the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) and Telford – a division of Lincoln University.
HTHS coordinator Kate Leebody said she’d been working on creating something like this for St Peter’s College, where she works as head of the vocational department including Star, Gateway and Careers, and is the school timetabler. This concept was timely for the schools in the area and the rural principals were extremely supportive.
At that time, the Youth Guarantee and Vocational Pathways were in their draft stages, so the group decided to use the draft pathways as a basis for the courses they would provide.
While it is hoped that most of the funding for students to take the courses would come through the Student Achievement Component (SAC) funding – the Tertiary Education Commission’s contribution to the direct costs of teaching and learning – this is still being worked through while some of the courses are proceeding with considerable goodwill from SIT.
The courses provided
Kate said both SIT and Telford had done a “wonderful” job in providing courses for the students.
Telford provides the National Certificate in Agriculture (Introductory Skills), while SIT runs courses that align with the Vocational Pathways categories: Manufacturing and Technology, Construction and Infrastructure, and Service Industries.
Each of the courses is designed to give students a basic understanding of what would be required for them to gain skills for a range of opportunities and employment in particular industries.
These courses aligned with Vocational Pathways enable students to see how their learning and achievement will be valued in the workplace, and the types of jobs and further study options available to them.
They each have a number of NCEA credits attached to them – made up of theory and practical unit standards that the students are expected to complete.
The courses are very hands-on – Kate said the Construction and Infrastructure students have already started to build a one-bedroom cottage at the SIT campus in Gore.
The Vocational Pathways profile tool can also be used to help students, employers and parents to see which pathways the credits are aligned with, and help students make well-informed subject and career choices. The profile tool helps employers to see where individual students’ strengths and interests lie.
Early results
The HTHS began in February this year, and Kate said already some students had found employment, or have an offer of employment at the completion of the course.
In some cases, employers are allowing the students to take Fridays off work to complete their course.
St Peter’s College principal John Hogue said there won’t be any official formal assessment data for the students at Tertiary High School until after the end of this term, after the first reporting deadline.
However, John said student attendance is good and there is anecdotal evidence to indicate that they’re on track for positive results.
“At this stage of the year the students look to be very engaged, more engaged than we would have seen from a similar group in the past.”
Introducing these pathway options has allowed the students to pursue more personalised and self-directed learning, said John.
Students attending HTHS are excused from regular Friday classes, and John said their class time is often modified so they don’t miss out on a lot of teaching time.
Kate added that teachers are working with these students to provide extra support when they are in class on other days of the week, and focusing more on tailoring programmes so when at school they can manage their workload.
Kate said the biggest challenges for the group are distances and costs associated with the travel some of the students have to do.
Most of the courses are centred in Gore, but in some instances, students have to visit the home campuses of SIT or Telford, in Invercargill and Balclutha respectively, to gain access to specialised equipment at the institutions.
Although not all students travel the same distances to the venues, travel expenses are spread between each of the schools according to the number of students attending the courses and distances travelled to get to the site.
In some instances the travel is shared with help from parents or others from the school communities.
While it has been the biggest challenge, travel is the only major expense that is required for students to participate in HTHS.
John said for this year, St Peter’s College has treated the HTHS as an “add-on” to their Friday timetable but the reality is that it is part of their school programme and there is rethinking and adjustments to the senior timetable required for the future.
“We don’t see it as an add-on, we’ll have to develop a more blended timetable which will allow students to not only respond to this opportunity on a Friday, but allow them to do their other work without feeling as though they’re missing out.
“We are investigating other models that schools who have clustered for similar programmes are using successfully.”
One of the challenges would be creating a timetable that allows HTHS students to be at school for important internal assessments or ongoing group assignments.
Teachers of other subjects, such as English will also have the opportunity to align their teaching to a pathway course the student is taking in the HTHS.
“It then breaks down those silos between traditional curriculum, trades academies and vocational training,” said John.
By Kate Bleasdale
The photo used in this article is a stock image and does represent staff or students in the schools mentioned in this article.
Vocational Pathways:
Careers NZ:
The Occupation Outlook 2013:
What the Vocational Pathways do 
  • Identify the skills and knowledge required by a cross-section of industries at a foundation level.
  • Provide a platform to develop new learning programmes to structure and achieve NCEA Level 2 or equivalent; the passport to further study and employment.
  • Improve relevance, by showing students where and how their learning and achievement will be valued.
  • Offer clear and credible choices for students that lead to valuable study and work destinations.
  • Provide a common framework for foundational vocational education across the secondary and tertiary sectors.
Vocational Pathways Q&A
The following questions have been received on our website
Is a Sector Related Standard also a Recommended Standard?
All are recommended standards and some are sector-related standards as well.
What does a student need to gain a Vocational Pathways Award?
Learners need to meet the NCEA Literacy and Numeracy requirements at Level 1 or above; and gain 60 credits from Recommended Standards which includes 20 credits from the Sector Standards. More information on the Vocational Pathways Award will be provided in July.
What if the standards we are using don’t appear in the Profile Builder on the website
If the standards your school is currently using do not appear they are therefore not recommended and may signal a need to revisit the program, or review if the assessment needs to be adjusted, as there may be a similar standard that is recommended.
We are not sure who to go to for advice?
There will be groups of organisations working through how to implement the Vocational Pathways. We recommend in the first instance to liase with your Principal or Chief Executive. You can also contact Chief Advisors in the Youth Guarantee Networks team at
Who confirmed the standards in the Vocational Pathways documents?
The Vocational Pathways were developed in partnership between education and industry. Sector groups reviewed all the Level 1 and Level 2 standards and decided which standards they would select as ‘recommended’ standards and which they would select as ‘sector related’ standards. These are the standards the sectors believe are best suited to a vocational pathway.
How do we find a provider for the standards?
When trying to find a provider that offers a specific standard, we recommend you use the “Search Framework” function on NZQA’s website