Providing opportunities and facilities


With Year 12-13 Electrotechnology courses well under way, Ara's Secondary-Tertiary Pathways Project (STPP) team is looking at how to reach more students. Ideas include: delivering modules, targeting younger students and trialling co-teaching courses with teachers.

Ara is running three Level 2 Electrotechnology courses – for Papanui High School, Christchurch Boys’ High School and a multi-school course – plus a Level 3 course for Papanui. Assuming sufficient numbers of students enrol for 2018, Ara tutor Pete Wilson will repeat these courses, with an additional Level 3 course for Christchurch Boys’.

Pete is particularly keen to grow the multi-school course. It currently has a small number of students from Haeata Community Campus and Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery. Students come to Ara one day a week which, Pete says, is a better model because it doesn’t require a minimum number of students from one school. “We can offer it to just one student from a school, and focus on recruiting those who are really interested in the opportunity.”

Providing opportunities and facilities for students

Three students from Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery are enrolled in the course which, says Learning Advisor Matt Parkes, provides opportunities and facilities the school can’t offer. “They massively love it, and go in the holidays. Two are seriously considering careers in that area because they enjoy it so much.”

Matt notes that all three are keen to do the Level 3 course next year and other students are also interested. “It’s been brilliant for the kids involved. They gave a presentation at school about what they were doing, and that’s inspired other students to do it.”

Reaching more schools/students by delivering content through modules

The team is considering whether they could reach more schools and students by offering modules. Instead of committing to a year of study, students could opt for 10-week modules in which they would attend Ara for one six-hour day each week.

“They would be deeper than a taster course, and provide a shorter, more intense experience than the current course,” says Pete. “We would still offer the opportunity to gain NCEA credits. And schools are already set up so that students can attend short courses.”

Targeting younger students before they’ve dropped maths and science subjects

The team is considering the impact of the current strategy. Some of the Year 12/13 students have already decided on an engineering career, while other students who aren’t taking Calculus and Physics are unlikely to enrol in engineering courses.

Offering a Level 1 Electrotechnology course could potentially lead to more students going on to engineering. “But, we’re also conscious that if we drop the Year 13 course that could potentially result in fewer students moving on!”

“We have plans to reach Year 10 students – especially girls, Māori and Pasifika – to plant the seed while they’re still doing maths and science subjects.”

Asking an engineering firm to provide a problem or opportunity

The Year 12 and 13 Electrotechnology courses include a day of industry visits. Students get an overview of what local electronics companies do, and get an idea of where they could potentially work in the future. After last year’s event, one student was so enthusiastic about work at Dynamic Controls that he is working towards eventually getting an engineering role there.

Pete is keen to build links with electronics firms, and is looking at getting more industry input into the course. “We’d like to get a company to provide a problem or opportunity for the students to work on. It could possibly be something that the firm doesn’t have time to do, or that isn’t critical for their general work.”

Co-teaching engineering-related courses with subject teachers

The team is also looking at developing a short, curriculum-related course for subject teachers to deliver. This would involve some professional development, with tutors co-teaching in the first year. “The advantage of this model, is that it’s more sustainable. Once up and running, it could continue without STPP funding.”

To set up a co-teaching engineering-related initiative, Pete would first trial it with just a few teachers.

Raising awareness of engineering pathways with parents

Parents influence their children’s study choices, so raising their awareness of engineering and career pathways is critical. Pete gets the opportunity to talk to his students’ parents at school parent-teacher interviews, and attends the schools’ career evenings.

He notes that a whanau evening for parents was very successful. “We were able to talk to a lot of people about the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (NZDE) pathway.” For the Week of Engineering (in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland), Ara set up a stall and provided activities to engage students and parents with what’s involved in engineering and the NZDE option.

A modern learning facility should appeal to young people

Ara opened a new Engineering and Architectural Studies building this year. Set up as a modern learning facility with open spaces and lots of light, it’s quite a contrast to the old building. “One comment was that it’s more of a gender-neutral space, says Pete,” representing a change from traditional attitudes about who studies engineering and how.”

The many female Architecture students working in the new facility add to the impression that females belong in this space. The STPP team wants to increase diversity in the cohort of engineering students. Pete notes that they are trying to get more girls involved in their activities, and are particularly keen to work with Haeata which has a large number of Māori and Pasifika students.

Continuing the current Electrotechnology course in 2018

The Electrotechnology courses will continue next year, with some minor tweaking. The start of the year is quite directed, with students doing more project-based work by Term 3. “They enjoy the projects more so I’d like to get onto that sooner, although I need to ensure they have enough theory to be able to complete the practical tasks.”

Cases study: Electrotechnology programme reaches more students
Case study: Electrotechnology course leads students into engineering

Our thanks to Pete and Matt for their time and advice; if you have any queries please contact

November 2017