Sun 1 Mar 2015

Fun Workshops Set the Tone

When it comes to the Youth Guarantee Scheme (YGS), little is left to chance by WITT coordinators Joanah Phillips and Vanessa Hensley.

Under the Government-funded scheme students must be aged between 16 and 19 and be studying for a year at levels one to three. In return their fees are paid for by the Government. The purpose of YGS is to provide fees-free tertiary places for eligible domestic students. It’s all about improving the transition from school to work, by providing a wider range of learning opportunities, making better use of the education network, and creating clear pathways from school to work and study.

The initiative create a variety of opportunities  for students to achieve a minimum of NCEA level two or equivalent which will help them progression into higher levels of study, training or employment.

That’s all pretty straight forward, but WITT doesn’t do things by half and Joanah and Vanessa have come up with a two-day workshop to help introduce students to tertiary study which was held the week before school started in February.

“It helps transition students to understand the difference between high school, or wherever they’ve come from, into a tertiary environment,’’ says Joanah.  “The students accepted under the Youth Guarantee Scheme are new to tertiary education and it is compulsory. ‘’

For the last four years the workshops have been held twice a year, before each intake. The name ‘workshops’’ can be a bit misleading though, as a lot of fun activities are included.

“We do all sorts of things,’’ says Vanessa. “There is a campus tour, they learn about the powhiri, what self-directed learning is all about; they get to know each other, and meet a lot of staff, including their tutors.”

“So when they start on day one they already have connections, and relationships with the staff. Often you see the students who’ve been on the workshop showing the other students around in that first week.’’

Joanah says there’s a lot of fun stuff as well.  “There’s a photo challenge which is open to all sorts of interpretations, but perhaps the highlight is on the second afternoon when all of the 70 students and staff are involved in a raft race at Ngamotu Beach.”

 This year’s event didn’t disappoint. “It was really big, with more than 100 people down there.  Each group is given four tyres, four pieces of bamboo and some flax. The tutors can give advice but they can’t help build it.  All the rafts actually floated, and it was a lot of fun!”

Joanah says the students blossom during the two days.

“It’s wonderful to see them change. On the first morning you could hear a pin drop, but by the end of the second day you could see the difference in them- it kick-starts their success. ‘’

“It doesn’t happen by accident though. A lot of research has gone into establishing what activities work the best.  “The students get lunch provided for them on both days, and at the end of the beach day we have pizzas brought in so the students and tutors can share some kai together.”

Vanessa says it’s great for the students to see their tutors in such an informal setting. “It makes it very easy for them to have a conversation in a relaxed informal setting and that helps set the tone for the rest of the year.”