The recently held, second biennial Southland Boys’ High School (SBHS) Trades Expo was a successful and productive day for the more than 1,000 students attending the event, who were presented the opportunity to explore trades training for their future careers.
The brainchild of SBHS Careers Advisor, Chris Marsh, the April event was well supported by local trades businesses and tertiary education and training providers, who gave students advice on how to progress towards training and entering their chosen career.
When he started the first expo in 2021, Mr Marsh saw a need to show students the direct pathways into trades careers as they progressed from secondary school. “I was new to the careers role and was looking at where boys go when they leave high school,” he said, pointing out many SBHS students will end up in a trades career, however, the pathway into those careers is not always obvious. “I wanted to make that pathway clearer,” he added.
Knowing his students were well informed was important and giving trades careers “similar airtime” as other options mattered as well, Mr Marsh said. “Not every student will suit university, or take on the financial risk of a student loan.” It was part of his role to make sure the boys had the full spectrum of options presented to them. “I want them to head out [already] knowing these things ... at the end of the day, it’s about connecting what’s inside of them with what’s available in the outside world.”
The entire school attended the “full on” day in their year levels, which took place in the school gymnasium and the quad; there were opportunities for students to pick up tools and have a go. From the feedback received, students had enjoyed the day; Mr Marsh added there were measurable outcomes from the expo. “Our boys have an increased awareness of the many positive opportunities that are available in the trades, hands-on job space.”
The school had also grown its network of connections with education providers, work-based learning subsidiaries of Te Pūkenga (formerly ITOs) and trade businesses, which enabled them to offer more opportunities to their students for further training, gaining additional NCEA credits and workplace experience, as well as being exposed to school leaving opportunities, such as full-time employment and apprenticeships.
SBHS Rector, Simon Coe, placed an emphasis on the value of the expo expanding the students’ horizons when it came to job ideas.
“Many will only know a handful of jobs even exist because this is what family and friends do,” he said. “It is vitally important that our young men know what is possible; this expo gives them exposure to more options, courses and directions that are all potential future opportunities.”
Mr Marsh stated there was a strong and positive relationship with the expo’s largest exhibitor, SIT | Te Pūkenga. As a result, they’ve seen growth in the number of boys being interested in, and attending SIT courses and training locally.
“SIT have been fantastic at listening to our needs and being flexible to increase their capacity to accommodate our trade-interested boys.” Adding to this, Mr Marsh said the quality of education the boys receive at SIT is “very high”.
“SIT’s communication with us is excellent ... most importantly, our boys enjoy going to SIT, gaining NCEA credits and gaining further education in their areas of interest. Often, once they go to one course, they go on to attend other SIT courses.”
Luke Mason, Head of School – Engineering at SIT, said the institute was well represented at the expo, offering multiple trade and industry options, including Telford Agricultural, and Construction and Engineering related disciplines, incorporating interactive displays and some competitions to get the students engaged.
“For a lot of these young people, we aim for nothing more than to plant a seed, especially for the Year 7 to 10s. For Years 11 to 13, there were conversations around career pathways.”
Mr Mason added SIT’s relationship with SBHS is significant, especially through Murihiku Tertiary Academy programmes, which many Year 12 and 13 SBHS students attend. The expo will next be held in 2025.