Trades academy expanding

After a strong first year, a joint trades venture between the Nelson region's schools has expanded to Marlborough, and will next year expand its range of courses and double its available student places.

The Top of the South Trades Academy - formerly the Nelson Tasman Trades Academy - was set up this year as a way to offer practical learning outside the classroom.

It initially had space for 100 students from Nelson schools, but with additional funding from the Ministry of Education, this will increase to 200 next year.

But it will still not meet the demand, with more than 250 people applying for courses next year.

The academy offers courses in subjects such as automotive engineering, hospitality, tourism, hairdressing and beauty, and next year the lineup will expand to include aquaculture and maritime study, aviation engineering, wellbeing and health.

Academy manager Shaaron Adams said that after beginning the past year "building something out of nothing", having too many students for the available places was a delightful problem to have.

Halfway through the year, the academy expanded to Marlborough, with students from three of the region's high schools travelling to the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology's Marlborough campus or the RNZAF campus at Woodbourne.

The academy was now frantically looking for creative ways of finding more funding, she said.

"None of us want to say to 50 or more kids that you can't come."

This reflected the national situation, with programmes around the country oversubscribed, which made it difficult for the ministry, she said.

"Their job is to make sure that the money is targeted to the greatest need, and clearly the greatest need is everywhere."

The academy's popularity was proof that the time was right for the idea. "We just need to find some solutions around funding it."

Nayland College is the lead provider for the trades academy, and principal Rex Smith said the introduction of the programme had gone better than he had expected.

About 60 per cent of students enrolled in a course this year would continue next year, and some had said it was the only reason they were returning to school.

Nelson College for Girls principal Cathy Ewing said it was good that the academy would be introducing more courses that were attractive to girls.

In the first year, most girls from her school had opted for the tourism and beauty courses, though they were able to try any course, she said.

"I think it's offering a really great opportunity for our students to make use of the resources that the tertiary institute can give."

The academy is a joint venture between Nayland College, Waimea College, Nelson College for Girls, Garin College, Motueka High School, Rai Valley Area School, Tapawera Area School, Marlborough Girls' College, Marlborough Boys' College, Queen Charlotte College, the Correspondence School and the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology.

Academy students travel to whichever location has the facilities for their course, with several "hubs" based around the region.

Students who want to take part in an academy course have to go through an interview process, and their parents are also consulted.

The Nelson Mail