Opinion // 21.04.2015 // Curated by Ed.

Learning and working, now there’s a cunning plan!

The idea of mixing school with tertiary might raise a few eyebrows but a Wellington organisation is finding it’s a recipe for success.

The Wellington Trades Academy (Weltec) is helping take the pressure off senior students unsure of what they want to do when they leave school.

The academy gives high schoolers the opportunity to gain trade qualifications, in everything from the building trades to animal care, while staying at school. Students spend three days at school and two with the academy.

“It’s about preparing students for a range of vocational training alongside gaining NCEA credits and national certificates. For example, young people interested in hospitality can gain two national certificates in cooking and food and beverage in a tertiary environment and maintain their school-based studies,” says Julia Hennessy, Executive Dean at Weltec. “You definitely see the student’s confidence grow over the course of the year as they enjoy an adult learning environment.”

To enrol you need to have at least 60 credits at NCEA Level 1 including the requirements for NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy, but if you don’t have these you can apply for special entry.

“We teach introductory qualifications to help students decide if it’s a career path they want to pursue before leaving school,” says Julia Hennessy. “We also have tutors and career counsellors who help with CV writing, preparing for interview and a range of different scenarios to help  students get ready for the workforce or higher level education.”

Academy students deal with “real customers” including members of the public, school principals, staff and fellow students. Hospitality students get to host and cook a lunch and experience first-hand what it would be like working in a catering or restaurant environment.

Denno Veratau is someone who has made the most of the academy’s innovative approach. He’s passed NCEA Level 2 at the academy and is studying a National Certificate in Carpentry Level 3 this year.


“You never know what you are capable of until you get to do it,” says Denno. “The Trades Academy allowed me the opportunity to learn about carpentry before I decided it was the career I wanted to pursue.”

But it’s not only students benefiting from the new approach, earlier this year Allied Workforce signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Weltec to help get engineering and carpentry graduates into jobs.

Looks like the ‘try before you buy’ approach gets the big thumbs up. What do you think?