Student numbers up in line with rebuild

Deon Swiggs, the man behind Rebuild Christchurch, has a sales and marketing degree from CPIT
Deon Swiggs, the man behind Rebuild Christchurch, has a sales and marketing degree from CPIT

Student numbers for some Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology courses have ballooned by more than 120 per cent as the city rebuild gets under way.

The polytechnic (CPIT) has bounced back to pre-earthquake numbers.

CPIT chief executive Kay Giles knew the institution had to adjust to the needs of post-disaster Christchurch.

Amos Neate was living rough two years ago but after a CPIT course he is now a carpentry and general construction apprentice.
Amos Neate was living rough two years ago but after a CPIT course he is now a carpentry and general construction apprentice.

"I think one thing that is beneficial for us is that we are very relevant to the rebuild and economic recovery in the short term," she said.

"That is our contribution, to reskill the community for the things that it needs."

Giles said the polytechnic set an ambitious target to get student numbers back to 85 per cent of pre-quake levels.

This year it recovered national and international enrolments to 99 per cent of pre-quake levels of more than 18,000 full and part-time students.

Student numbers undertaking trades courses have jumped by more than 25 per cent from 710 equivalent fulltime students (EFTS) in 2011 to 900 this year.

At the beginning of this month, the polytechnic had 545.4 EFT international students enrolled.

Giles had projected for 530 EFTS.

The CPIT recovered international numbers by building on well-established relationships with overseas providers.

"The three people in our international team have done a lot of travelling this year," she said.

"We really do go out and talk to people; let them know we are open for business."

It was a similar approach to attract domestic students, offering the skills the city needed and the prospect of training for an almost guaranteed job.

Plans to expand trades, drawn up before the quakes struck, intensified.

The quakes accelerated business to the point where the polytechnic had to establish new courses.

"You could say we have turbocharged," Giles said.

Working with industry providers and the wider community, the CPIT significantly increased the number of trades programmes on offer to fit in with the skills the city requires for the rebuild.

It customised programmes to meet needs of employers and the changing work force.

It also reached out to the migrant community, offering English-language courses and refreshers on New Zealand work practices.

Rather than just recover what was lost in the 2011 quakes, the CPIT put money into updating and expanding facilities.

The main campus weathered the quakes well, but needed strengthening and cosmetic repairs.

However, the Circo Arts building in Madras St was severely damaged and the course has been on hold since.

The Government has agreed in principle to support the expansion of trades training facilities.

The CPIT now sits at the top of the Tertiary Education Commission's performance of tertiary education organisations review for its 2011 academic year.

It came top in terms of course completion, second in completion of qualifications and scored highly in student progression to higher-level study.

"The earthquake focused us on asking what do we really need to have," Giles said.

Amos Neate Two years ago, Amos Neate was living rough on the streets of Christchurch.

Now he is helping rebuild the earthquake-shattered city.

Neate, 24, this year graduated from the CPIT's He Toki ki te Rika programme, formed in response to the need for skilled workers for the rebuild.

"It was a nine-month course and we did all the theory of apprenticeship," he said.

Neate was headhunted by Hawkins Construction for its project at Christchurch International Airport after he impressed bosses on his work experience, and he is now employed as a carpentry and general construction apprentice.

Pay quickly rises in the industry, with roughly a dollar an hour being added every six months.

"It is better than starting off being a labourer," Neate said.

It was a better career than Neate, who left school with no qualifications, hoped for when he was sleeping under bridges around Christchurch.

"It's bizarre to think where I was two years ago to now," he said.

"This course was the best thing I have ever done. It was the first time I ever achieved something."

He said anyone considering the building or trades industry should go for it.

"This really is the prefect storm. You can work up the ladder and you're guaranteed a job as a tradesman in this city," he said.

Deon Swiggs Deon Swiggs, the man behind Rebuild Christchurch, recently graduated top of his class at the CPIT.

Swiggs launched the Rebuild Christchurch website and Rebuild Christchurch Foundation after the September 2010 earthquake.

"The website is run as a business," he said.

"The foundation takes the business intelligence from the website and puts that to physical work in the community."

Months after the launch, wanting to get more business knowledge and qualifications, he enrolled in a sales and marketing course.

He completed a postgraduate Diploma in Innovation at the same time.

Swiggs was completing a managing-growth paper as the website and foundation were booming.

He was able to skip the first year of what was meant to be a four-year course because the CPIT took into account his officer training from his time in the navy.

He then crammed three years' work into two years' part-time study.

"It was a lot of work," he said.

The Press