Opportunity for "systemic change" to be unveiled at Summit

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SW 027 19 Apr 2017

Key Waikato leaders will turn out en masse next month to hear how a ground-breaking regional initiative is improving education to employment pathways for the region’s young people and addressing future workforce gaps.

More than 150 guests, including secondary school Principals, their board of trustee representatives, business leaders and Mayors, are expected at the biennial VIP Smart Waikato Leadership Summit on May 10.

Findings from Smart Waikato’s Secondary School Employer Partnerships (SSEP), an initiative improving the way schools engage with local employers, will be unveiled at the invitation-only event at the University of Waikato’s Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts.

Smart Waikato chief executive Mary Jensen said the summit is an opportunity for the region’s leaders to learn about and support an initiative making “real and systemic change” to the way schools engage with employers.

“We are excited about the impact SSEP is already having throughout our region and we are looking forward to sharing our findings with the key leaders who can really make the difference for our young people, businesses and the economy moving forward,” Mary said.

SSEP are formal relationships where employer groups from priority sectors link into school faculties at Years 9 and 10, supporting contextualised learning at subject level and introducing students to a
wide range of careers.

The goal of the initiative is to improve student retention, achievement and education-to employment transitions, beginning with younger secondary school students and progressing to senior students.

In 2016 48 different employers from key industries partnered with 26 teachers at five Waikato secondary schools; Fairfield College (maths), Thames High School (business), Hamilton Boys’ High School (metal and IT technology), Morrinsville College (science) and Hauraki Plains College (English) to pilot SSEP. 731 students participated (338 from Year 9 and 393 from Year 10). Key industries
identified as being important to the local economy were business, ICT, trades, infrastructure, engineering, health and primary industries. SSEP, this year rolled out in a further seven Waikato secondary schools, gives teachers and students real-life context to the subjects they teach and learn, positively influences student subject choices, and changes the way students feel about what they can achieve, Mary said.

“Our findings show a substantial shift in the way students think about the relevance of their subjects to the “real world”, their careers and the way teachers engage with industry. We are excited by these results, which have been drawn from comprehensive data collected from students, teachers and employer partners participating in the pilot,” she said.

The Leadership Summit, supported by Waikato Means Business, Waikato Federated Farmers Charitable Society, University of Waikato, Gallagher, Stafford Industries, Te Wananga o Aotearoa, Foster Construction, DV Bryant Trust, VO2, Hill Laboratories and WEL Energy Trust, will include premiere screening of pilot case study films and Waikato Means Business initiatives impacting the region.

The initiative, implemented by Smart Waikato, gives the region the opportunity to lead New Zealand in improving education to employment pathways and addressing skills shortages, Mary said.

Smart Waikato’s goal is to generate enough investment to implement SSEP at each secondary school in the region.

Smart Waikato, with a network of more than 1000 employers and educators throughout the region, is a charitable trust formed in 2009 to empower youth through education to employment pathways.

Other Smart Waikato initiatives include FutureForce® Action Network (FAN), which provides free tools, strategies, and networks to help employers grow their own workforce by offering more and improved work experience, apprenticeships, cadetships, and jobs to the region’s young people.

The trust partners in publishing FutureForce® Waikato, an annual careers resource giving youth, teachers and parents practical information on careers in the region. About 12,000 are distributed free to senior secondary school students throughout the region.

Smart Waikato also manages The Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme in the region.