Boost for Kiwi students as Chorus shapes its future workforce

“We believe that as a big industry player we have a role to play in helping young people get those skills."

Chorus has teamed up with secondary schools to introduce students to the world of telecommunications and technology through its Schools Gateway Programme.

“For Chorus, the benefits are an increased awareness of the great careers available in our industry,” says Michael Hansen, Manager, Service Company Implementation, Chorus.

“We also end up with a pool of skilled candidates for technical roles, including apprenticeships. The young people who are successful in this programme will develop useful skills that are relevant for a career in telecommunications.

“We believe that as a big industry player we have a role to play in helping young people get those skills.”

Hansen says secondary school students are selected annually for Chorus’ Gateway Programme for Telecommunications with three classes run per year with about 10 students per course.

During the sessions, students attend training classes run by the Chorus Technical Training team once a week for ten weeks, and learn the same skills that Chorus teaches its 2,500 strong contracted workforce.

According to Hansen, the students then follow up with work placements, putting into practice the theory they have obtained.

“Students spend the first part of the course at our Lab at 99 Khyber Pass - in the morning they learn theory about our network, followed by practical skills in the afternoon such as basic router skills and fibre splicing,” he adds.

“Afterwards they go on a job placement - first at Chorus in Wyndham St, then out in the field with a Field Specialist.”

Ministry of Education Group Manager for Youth Guarantee, Arthur Graves says the industry is calling for a more skilled workforce.

“If more of our top companies engaged with education like Chorus is in Auckland, our youth would have a much better chance of matching demand in the work place,” he claims.

“They would also have an increased understanding of what their employment options are, and be inspired to follow a successful pathway to further study or work.”

As a result of Chorus’ Gateway programme, Year 12 and 13 students earn 10 NCEA sector related credits - five earned for successfully completing theory, and five earned ‘on the job’ making their learning relevant to a future career.

These credits go toward their qualifications and contribute to a Vocational Pathways Award in Manufacturing & Technology.

This term, Chorus has a range of schools involved, with 12 students from Rosehill College, Onehunga High, Mt Albert Grammar, Tuakau College, Aorere College and Mangere College taking part.

Hansen says Chorus is only in the second year of Gateway and has already employed students directly into its Apprenticeship Programme.

“We have seen a great success with some of these students accepted into apprenticeships with our service providers,” he adds.

Hansen believes the Apprenticeship Programme gives those interested in pursuing a telecommunications career a ‘foot in the door’, and a chance to get their three year telecommunications qualification while earning at the same time.

“It is a three-year NZQA level 3 qualification which is completed while apprentices are employees,” Hansen adds.

“The yearly intake varies, but the average would be a total of around 50 new apprentices per year across Chorus’ service partners including Downer Engineering, Visionstream, or Transfield Services.”

After discussions with NZQA there is now also a one year telecommunications qualification available, in addition to the three year course - this telecommunications qualification focuses on basic skills like electrotechnology, health and safety and numeracy and literacy.

“It widens employment opportunities and means that Chorus can ensure its workforce needs are being catered to from all angles,” Hansen adds.

“We expect to start the pilot one-year programme with 20 people around June 2015. On completion, successful candidates will be able to continue through to the full level 3 qualification.”

The field of telecommunications combines elements of IT, electrical, technology, and business disciplines.

For Hansen, it suits students who have aspirations in fields such as: field technician, field manager, technical helpdesk, technical designer, technical record and database management, technical consulting and sales, business analyst and people managers.

According to Hansen, good qualifications are essential to securing a good job and a higher income.

“New Zealand needs to increase the number of young people, moving into further education, training or employment,” he adds.

“In particular, we need to improve the rate of NCEA Level 2 achievement, the minimum qualification a young person needs to get to be ready for a better future.

“We also need to increase the number of 15-19 year olds in education to ensure they get the qualifications and skills that will benefit them.

“We also need more young New Zealanders progressing to Level 4 or above, on the New Zealand qualifications framework, and moving into further education or skills training.”

The Youth Guarantee provides 15-19 year olds more opportunities to study towards achieving NCEA Level 2, through programmes that make sense to them and have a clear pathway to further education, training and employment.

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