Preparing students for the work force

ELLA Jackson-Bolstad enjoys her placement at the SPCA. Photos supplied

LIKE Gateway, Opotiki College’s Te Ahurutanga work experience initiative prepares students for the world after school.

Te Ahurutanga teacher in charge Ruth Telfer said the initiative helped students with special needs to build work ethics, experience and open opportunities for when they left school.

“It’s about experiencing different work environments, and just getting a taste [of being in the workforce],” she said.

Ms Telfer said she created the initiative about a decade ago, to help prepare long-term students in the unit for when they had to leave the school, which can be at up to 21 years of age.

KAYLA Sanson and Puti Haereroa get to work at Thornton Park Retirement Lodge.

“In the last few years of their schooling, we look at transition work. Most of them have been here since before they were five, so they know no different.”

Job placements are arranged with businesses around town, and students are accompanied to their workplace every Thursday by a teacher aide. Each job is personally selected for the student by Ms Telfer, based on the student’s wants and interests.

Ms Telfer said students could move on to different jobs if they wanted to, or stay in the same position for as long as three years.

“We had one student who went down to New World every week, and now he has a permanent part-time job there.”

She said the initiative provided experience and opportunities and built on students’ potential within the community.

The initiative builds skills like communication, critical thinking, problem solving, professionalism, teamwork and collaboration, making students more employable and giving useful lifelong experience.

Currently, the programme has three students working in the community.

Puti Haereroa and Kayla Sanson help out around the Thornton Park Retirement Lodge, while Ella Jackson-Bolstad works at the Opotiki SPCA.

“[The students] love it, they really do.

“Ella loves animals, so she’s thriving [at the SPCA]. It really helps build self-confidence,” said Ms Telfer.