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Learning Power

Michalle Deegan

For years trade training and apprenticeships were regarded as the Cinderella option. No longer! Cinderella is now designing the ball. Teachers and students have begun to see trade training and apprenticeships as a first and flexible choice - a valid alternative for secondary students who want to build parallel career pathways of work experience and qualifications. The image of the Electricity Supply Industry as confined to males up pylons wearing hard hats is as damaging as it is dated. There’s an acute skills shortage and, given the many and varied needs of the Electricity Supply Industry, the career future for enthusiastic and committed school leavers of both sexes is assured.

Earn as you learn

ESITO, The Electricity Supply Industry Training Organisation, offers a graduated series of NZQA qualifications from Level 2 to Level 6. In most instances employers pay for the training, much of which is done during work time. This includes workplace training and block courses. With no student loan and often a financial incentive for completing the NZQA levels, motivation is high. It’s not a narrow pathway. For example, if you build a solid skills base as a line mechanic, you could undertake further training to become a live-line mechanic, an electrician, and progress to becoming a project or contract manager to supervisory and management roles. Experience-based training expands career options, as some of the the current ESI CEO’s will attest - they started as apprentices.

Scholarship support

ESITO offers a range of generous scholarships and incentives to school leavers and industry employees. Scholarships are available for school leavers entering the electricity industry for a one- year full time pre-trade course. Scholarship opportunities also exist for students choosing industry-relevant courses at university or polytechnics such as the National Diploma in Engineering which leads to employment in the industry. Modern Apprenticeships are being offered to school leavers as well as existing employees, and scholarships are available for employees for developing internal career opportunities. Opportunities also exist for school leavers wanting to pursue other directions within the electricity industry. For example, as a result of its school partnership programme, ESITO is supporting Vicky Walker from Tauhara College, Taupo with a scholarship to undertake a business qualification at Massey University.

School partnerships

As part of ESITO’s efforts to promote the Electricity Supply Industry, classes ranging from fourth form to seventh form were involved in art projects. Vicky Walker (pictured) was inspired to use her ESITO artwork as the basis for her Bursary art portfolio. Not only has this won her an ESITO scholarship, but her artwork is being used for ESITO’s magazine advertising (see below) and for this year’s Christmas cards, and it is highly likely that her design and marketing skills will be snaffled up by the industry when she graduates.

ESITO, in partnership with Genesis Energy, has also been sponsoring 30 students at Te Wharekura o Rakaumanga, Huntly, to complete their National Certificate in Computing, level 2.

In another approach to promote the Electricity Supply Industry, ESITO sponsors a $1000 travel award at the annual Genesis Energy National Science and Technology Fair. The current recipient of this award is James Canny (15) from Verdon College, Southland. He invented an ingenious Hazard Alert Beacon designed to alert drivers to black ice.

ESITO is thrilled with schools’ response to its partnership initiatives but is eagerly searching for more and better ways to get the message through to students and parents that choosing an experience-based training option is a rewarding and flexible pathway.