Secondary School Employer Partnerships

Celebrating Five Years of SSEP

Smart Waikato’s Secondary School Employer Partnerships is an award-winning initiative raising student aspirations, resulting in higher achievement, retention and better transitions.

SSEPs are formal relationships between secondary schools and local employers from a range of industries. Employers work with teachers to contextualise student learning at a year 9 and 10 level across the whole cohort. SSEP provides a “real world” application of the curriculum and exposes students to a wide range of career pathways. SSEP involves learning both inside and outside the classroom.

SSEP supports the New Zealand Educational and Learning Priority (NELP) objective to “Collaborate with industries and employers to ensure learners/ākonga have the skills, knowledge and pathways to succeed in work.”

Impact of SSEP

Schools are describing SSEP as creating transformational change in the way that students are learning.

In 2021, 35 schools across the Waikato region are participating in SSEP including mainstream, special character and kura kaupapa Māori.

Celebrating Five Years of Impact

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SSEP Student Survey Results 2016 – 2020

Percentage of Year 9 and 10 students that answered ‘YES’ to:
“Has the experience of having business people in your school and going out into their workplace…”

Impact on Student Rentention, Engagement and Achievement Aspirations

In 2017, 546 SSEP students responded to a survey assessing the impact of the programme. It was independently analysed by a senior statistician from Hamilton City Council using the ordered logit model.

Key findings:

SSEP showed significant impact on students intention to stay in school, attitudes towards subjects, and qualification expectations.

Longitudinal Study – Fairfield College

Since SSEP was introduced at Fairfield College in 2016, students have elected to take ‘harder’ maths in their senior years.


increase in students selecting ‘Academic’ Maths at Year 12


increase in students taking Calculus at Year 13

Fairfield College students’ actual rate of completion:

increased by 40%  for Year 12
increased by 32% for Year 13

Fairfield College students’ continued selection of the SSEP subject (Maths) has:

increased by 18% in Year 12
increased by 9% in Year 13

Where to Next?

Introducing Secondary School Integrated Career Pathways Pilot – a co-created Careers and Hauora programme integrated into Years 9 to 13.

Building on the foundation of SSEP in the junior school, Smart Waikato is developing STEP (Secondary Tertiary Employer Partnerships) into the senior school.  SSEP and STEP will be integrated into a Career Pathways-Hauora pilot with Hillcrest High School in 2022.

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Supported by:


SSEP began as a regional economic development initiative to address skills shortages and youth unemployment in the Waikato region.

In 2015, Smart Waikato undertook a global literature search to identify best practice school-employer connections that:

  • Improved student engagement in school and their learning
  • Improved student achievement and retention to minimum employability level
  • Encouraged students to explore potential career pathways in local industry

Based on these findings, in 2016 Smart Waikato designed and piloted SSEP in five Waikato secondary schools.

Each year, teacher, employer and student participants are surveyed to evaluate the programme and its impact.

Informed by these key stakeholders, SSEP has developed into an established framework that has been successfully integrated across a variety of pedagogical approaches to teaching including traditional, cross-curricula and project-based learning.

The framework is supported by a comprehensive suite of online resources and SSEP helpdesk for facilitators and participants.

Our SSEP Employer Partners

SSEP would not be possible without the support of our employer partners across the region. To date, we have had over 200 employers involved with SSEP, donating about $280,000 worth of volunteer time each year. Click on the image below for a closer look.

SSEP Resource Centre

The SSEP Resource Centre houses SSEP examples, templates, how-to guides and more. It is exclusively available to all registered SSEP schools and employer partners and helps build capability to ensure the initiative is sustainable well into the future.

The SSEP Resource Centre is located on the SmartNZ website and includes:

  • Induction and promotional material for teachers, students and employers new to SSEP
  • Teacher and employer tips for getting the most out of SSEP
  • Ideas and examples of SSEP activities
  • Virtual SSEP videos and workplace visits to support classroom and distance learning
  • Planning tips and templates (Education outside the classroom (EOTC), Health and Safety, lesson plan examples, ‘how to’ guides and more!)
  • SSEP Network forum to connect and share ideas with other SSEP schools and employer partners

SSEP Photo Gallery

Contact your nearest SSEP Facilitator to get involved

Linda Nelson Caie
SSEP Programme Manager

[email protected]

Jan Barnett
SSEP Facilitator Central-North Waikato

[email protected]

Anna Allison
SSEP Facilitator East Waikato

[email protected]

Erin Gray
SSEP Facilitator Southern Waikato

[email protected]

Shayle Manawaiti
SSEP Facilitator Southern Waikato and Kura Kaupapa Māori

[email protected]