Blenheim trades academy opens doors
About 40 Marlborough secondary school pupils will spend one day a week studying for a trades qualification at the Top of the South Trades Academy, which begins classes in Blenheim tomorrow.
The independent academy, which has been running in Nelson for a year, officially opened at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology Budge St campus yesterday. Its opening ceremony coincided with NMIT's welcome for new students.
The academy offers free courses to years 11, 12 and 13 students who have achieved NCEA level one and want to get a head-start in their chosen trade.
Top of the South Trades Academy manager Shaaron Adams said about 40 pupils from Marlborough Boys', Marlborough Girls' and Queen Charlotte colleges had enrolled in first-year courses for automotive engineering or primary industries.
The students would attend the academy each Thursday and go to school for the rest of the week, she said.
Each student would gain unit standards toward a national qualification, such as a National Certificate in Trade, and a minimum of NCEA level 2.
"The goal is to keep kids in school, make sure they get the chance to learn about something that interests them away from that environment and get a feel for what the real work-world looks like," Ms Adams said.
"It's about having a good reason to stay at school, and a greater chance of gaining a successful career they're passionate about."
The academy is offering two course options this year, but Ms Adams expects that more will be added in following years.
Colleges in Marlborough had chosen the initial two courses as they were most popular among students, she said.
Marlborough Boys' College year 12 student Jayden Sandoe, applied to study automotive engineering after hearing about the course from a teacher.
"My teacher told me about it, and I applied because this is the career I want to follow, and I get a head-start in it."
Ms Adams said the academy had grown to meet demand, with 11 partner schools from Golden Bay to Marlborough.
Ministry of Education funding in 2012 initially provided for only 110 students in Tasman and Nelson. But after a successful bid to the ministry, and with backing from the three Marlborough colleges, the academy received funding for 211 students.
The Top of the South Academy is a joint venture between 13 education providers in Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough. The Ministry of Education approved funding for the academy in late 2011 as part of its Youth Guarantee Policy, which focuses on improving educational opportunities and achievement for 16 and 17 year-olds.