Opinion // 21.04.2015 // Curated by Ed.

Now you can graduate from The School of Life


Naell Crosby-Roe, Sales and Marketing Manager, Open Learning, Capable NZ

‘Mature students’.  Words usually describing the front row of the lecture theatre.  Yet the further our own glorious student days fade into the distance, the more we reconsider – what if we’d applied ourselves the way mature students do?

Countless people have to swerve tertiary learning, because of a surprise baby, a tempting job offer, or just getting stuck in the grind.  Suddenly they’re in their 40s, in a career they mastered years ago.  The only thing standing between them and greater success is the absence of a few letters after their name.

So what are your options? Suck it up and stagnate? Chuck everything in and spend several precious years in the front row of the lecture theatre? Or how about juggle everything, study part time and finally graduate at retirement age?  Not a great bunch of choices.  At Otago Polytechnic though, Capable NZ has been capping School of Life graduates for more than a decade.

Capable NZ offers alternative pathways to qualifications, based on recognition of experiential learning in the workplace.  Open Learning Sales and Marketing Manager Naell Crosby-Roe says Capable NZ’s approach is quite different to traditional tertiary learning.

“Rather than showing them how to build a brick wall, we help them to see they’ve already got a brick wall, and how they built it,” Naell explains.  “It’s not teaching people to suck eggs, it’s more about helping them to understand what it is they already know.”

Candidates spend 10 to 18 months building a portfolio demonstrating they fit the graduate profile.  They need hard evidence, case studies and the ability to address any academic gaps in their knowledge.  Then they make a presentation to a panel and undergo intensive grilling before any qualification is awarded.  Naell warns the quick turnaround can be misleading.

“Sometimes people are fooled into thinking this is an easy option, but it’s a lot of work in a short space of time.”

He should know – Naell is currently completing a Master of Professional Practice degree through Capable NZ.  Compared with his traditionally attained undergraduate degree, he admits the work-based learning model does take getting used to.

“You don’t fully appreciate it until you’ve done it, getting involved in the process and going through the steps.”

Most of Capable NZ’s learners come from a business management background like Naell’s.  They’re predominantly people who wouldn’t have had a shot at tertiary learning otherwise.  In 2014, 450 people went through the system, with a graduate rate of almost 100%.  Capable NZ is very proud of the fact that Maori are highly represented in the programme, making up around a fifth of learners.  Sportspeople find the benefits particularly suited to their needs too.  High profile alumni include Olympic gold medallists Danyon Loader and Barbara Kendall, several Silver Ferns and Blackstick Shea McAleese.

Naell Crosby-Roe says Capable NZ provides valid, relevant options for older learners.

“Looking at someone’s background for recognition of prior learning is completely unique to Capable NZ,” he confirms.  “Transforming lives is our ultimate success.”