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Category: Careers

Working with business is good business for education

Back in the 1960’s when a student was clearly heading towards the wall there was usually one solution – find them a job!

The principal would be a member of the Rotary Club and that would be a port of call. Or the school would have built up a series of relationships. Usually the troubled (and troubling) young person was placed in an environment where they would be under the watchful eye of an experienced employee. A sort of “sit-over-there-next-to-Agnes-and-she-will-show-you-the-ropes” solution. But it worked.

Then it seemed as if in the late 1970s through to the end of the last century, education and employers went their own way.

When new relationships emerged in the 2000s something had changed and I have only just realized what it was. The relationships between employers and education were no longer about the students but were about the institutions. Marquee relationships were set up with businesses lending their names to buildings or developments.  Educators got to know employers again but it was about the institution and a more social set than about the business.

It is now time for a radical shake up in this. What we know is that in a multiple pathways environment, and these are emerging slowly, in which transitions are blurred, the relationship between employers and education needs to return to a shared responsibility for certain elements of the students journey. No, it is not about money, it is about placing the human resource that business has next to the human resource of education.

In the 1990s I was lucky enough to lead Aorere College at a time when a fledgling Auckland International Airport Ltd was seeking to explore its community relationships. Aorere College was seen as a good starting point. And so there developed over a period of time a portfolio of initiatives that included activities such as:

  •  a mentoring programme, “Airbridge”, which matched promising Year 10 students with AIAL executive staff for the last four years of the students’ schooling;
  • opportunities for the school choirs, among the very best in New Zealand at that time, to share in important events at the airport;
  • the “Commercial Department” ran the Business Centre in the international terminal 356 days a year with a mix of student and employed centre staff – great and real work experience;
  • the “Home Economics Dept” ran the cafeteria that served several hundred lunches to airport staff out of a commercial kitchen with an employed chef leading the work;
  • the special needs units had for a time responsibility for some of the gardens at the airport;
  • the AIAL had a representative on the Board of Trustees and I attended senior staff briefings at the Airport.

None of this involved truckloads of money changing hands. It was simply an excellent company and an excellent school going about their respective business but finding ways of working together with the students at the centre of each of the equations that drove the relationship.  And this was just one of the relationships the school had that was of this nature. The Manukau City Council was another major partner.

The MCC operated the schools grounds, long and well used by the community but always a little out of control (!), as part of their parks network. It was an arrangement that suited both parties, the school had a much more controlled use of the fields while the Council had an additional park on which to place users in an area which at that time was short of such spaces. Aorere was one of the first four technology secondary schools and this was a further area of cooperation for students and council staff to work together doing real work – students helping with the drawing up of development plans, the geography department surveying a rural water course for the council.

When Aorere College had an employers breakfast it would have over a hundred “partners” attend.

Now some of this was also happening elsewhere spurred along in some measure by an early initiative from the Secondary Principals of New Zealand (SPANZ) when it ran several conferences on Schools and Business. This received the usual push-back from some quarters.

But that was then and we now need to design the new relationships bearing in mind the core principles that drove the work back then.

  • it is about the students and not the institution
  • it is about the curriculum and learning;
  • it is about students experiencing real work not standing, scared, next to the till watching others do the work.

Whatever the level, secondary or tertiary, the relationships are not about money but are based on something much more valuable, long-lasting and precious, the wealth of human knowledge, willingness and social responsibility that is out there waiting for education to offer a hand of friendship.


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San Francisco

Protest still alive and well at UC Berkeley #1

I stumbled across a student protest meeting on the campus at UC Berkeley on my way to meet with colleagues. They seemed to be responding with great enthusiasm to an articulate speaker who was making an argument that capitalism was dead. The focus of the protest was about the designs of the university to use six acres that they owned for an old folks home but in the meantime students had occupied the land for community gardens. My mind went back to the famous occupation of the UC Berkeley land in Telegraph Ave in the 1960s. I went off to the Freedom of Speech Café that commemorates the events of those halcyon days of protest at UC Berkeley for a coffee.

Protest still alive and well at UC Berkeley #2

Chalk notices are scrawled on the pavements calling for students to gather at Sproul Hall, 2.00pm Tuesday to protest the raising of tuition fees by $US 3,000.

Who doesn’t pay tuition fees at some of the universities?

Students who meet the entry requirements,  are selected for the University of California system and whose family income is less that $US 40,000 pa, do not pay tuition fees. This is covered by what is a called a Pell Grant and 33% of UC Berkeley first year students are covered by this. At Stanford the threshold for qualifying for full asistance is $US 100,000.

Famous in New Zealand and the US

I searched for mention of New Zealand but, honestly, the only mention of our country was Lydia Ko and her performance in some golf tournament. She was, the media suggested, a person to watch. I took comfort from the fact that I had written about this just a couple of weeks ago. Eat your hearts out All Blacks!

The Bus is brought to you by the letters F and S

I adore the fleets of Sesame Street school buses that toddle around the town taking students to and from school and to and from such amazing places as the Exploratium on the waterfront area of San Francisco. I do regret the fact that they no longer have signage that confidently identifies them as a “School Bus”.  Stating this clearly on the side was a great help to young readers. They are now styled as “First Student”. It is a sentiment I relate to but is it yet a reality?

North Beach sinking into respectability

The development around San Francisco seems breathtakingly fast. And the gloss seems to be going off Vesuvius, the favourite drinking hole for Dylan Thomas, and the next door book shop, Unity Books, that Lawrence Ferlinghetti established and the whole little micro-district that saw Jack Kerouac and his entourage produce all that stuff in the 1950s. And this within spitting distance of the church in which Joe Di Maggio married Marilyn Monroe. But who cares? Are some things not sacred? That is being replaced by respectable!

The Imperial Approach to Metrics

I am amused by the weather reports on TV that report the rainfall as 1.3”. Is this the metrimperial system?

Identifying Career Direction

There are some very smart projects taking place that assist students to develop a view of career. One which appeals is the CA Career Café. Students snack on experiences that introduce them to possible careers and a web site assists them to develop and refine their thoughts. As they approach the exit zone then internships play an important role in shaping the detail of their choices. It is student driven. What is impressive is the connections to employers who embrace the scheme not only with opportunities for such internships but also in supporting the programmes as students move through school and college. There are lessons in all this.

The Rectangular Hands

You could be forgiven for wondering if Californians are mutating and losing their fingers. The you realize that their arms end in rectangular blocks simply because they are clutching mobile phone incessantly. In the evening faces of pedestrians are illuminated by the soft glow of the screens. Couples sit in restaurants gazing closely at their phones. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were texting each other. For a hundred years our phones were as close as the cord was long.  Now the phone is liberated to pursue us wherever we go. I think it’s called progress.


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