Companies join in student training

A Christchurch school's mission to prepare its students for the workforce is attracting national and international interest.

Linwood College is the first school in the country to introduce a curriculum focused on STEM - science, technology, engineering, and maths - education.

The initiative began among its Year 7 and 8 students this year, and will gradually roll out to the whole school.

Principal Margaret Paiti said to be successful, the school needed company and community support in order to offer real world opportunities.

About 10 companies have signed up, including Lincoln and Canterbury universities, and Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, which signed a tertiary alliance with the school at an event attended by chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman yesterday.

For large international companies like construction firm Downer, which has signed on, it was about connecting the gap between industry and schools while maintaining a corporate conscience.

Downer New Zealand executive general manager Rob Gilmore said the STEM concept was "wonderful" because it would encourage young people to commit to the disciplines once they knew their benefits.

"The more people we have who are able to lead the technology race, the better," he said.

Gilmore was "passionate" about engineering and could see how the initiative could help with "significant vacancies" within his company, and the rest of the country.

Paiti said offering skills and support with work experience was a "genuine way" companies could contribute.

It was "hugely important" for preparing students to contribute to the rebuild too, she said.

The school's chief operating manager, Peter Helms, was seeing full support from companies approached. "It's limitless, it could go into cultural areas as well," he said.

When asked how much it would cost the Government to introduce STEM education into New Zealand, he said: "I see the word billions".

The school yesterday launched a document explaining its STEM vision to the community.

The Press