OPINION: It is one thing to sign up for further study on leaving school, quite another to get work as a result.
So it was pleasing to read of the success Aoraki Polytechnic graduates from last year have achieved, particularly in the trades courses.
Fifteen of 18 carpentry graduates have jobs, 13 of 16 general engineers and 11 of 11 automotive engineers. Impressive stuff.
And not only has the district kept these young people in town for another year, but most of the jobs are also local. It shows the true value of the polytech here.
This will give the organisation heart for the year ahead, and hopefully instill confidence in those enrolling for this year.
The polytech still has its challenges as it continues to shift from sub-contracted courses to core in-house programmes. It has lost money in the last two years and has had its budget for this year cut by $2.6 million to $13.5m, with a corresponding cut in expected student numbers to more accurately reflect reality.
Chief executive Kay Nelson has gone and will not be replaced until later in the year, while an independent consultant has been called in to give an overview for the future.
The polytechnic's investment plan for the next three years makes interesting reading.
There is a recognition it has tried to offer too many courses with too few students in some. Over the last 15 years core programmes have never been viable, the plan says, with Aoraki the least efficient in terms of teaching in the country.
The key then will be to cut out the less popular courses (half have gone already in the last three years) while still delivering quality programmes that lead to jobs or higher study, and doing so in an economic fashion. That means courses of at least 16 students.
A part of all that is convincing the local community that what it offers has value.
There are distinct advantages in not having to shift town to study, most obviously in not requiring a student loan for accommodation.
The carrot though has to be a job at the end of the course. The successes enjoyed by the trades courses therefore couldn't have come at a better time.
- The Timaru Herald