The Ara |Te Pūkenga Summer Open day was the busiest in many years with a Canterbury heatwave no barrier to hundreds of students seeking to explore study options.
Organisers said there was something for everyone with information on study pathways, student support and enrolments as well as the opportunity to talk one-on-one with tutors and take campus tours with free ice-cream in hand.
Manager Youth and Community Development Mark Simons said it was the busiest summer Open Day in recent years with over 400 registrations along with whānau on hand in support.
“Both our help desk and enrolments desk were very busy with students submitting applications for this coming semester on the spot,” Simons said. “We also have registrations to follow up from prospective students for mid-year or those preparing applications for 2024 so that’s promising for us too,” he added.
Prospective learners were able to find out about more than 150 career-enhancing study options ranging from certificates and diplomas to degrees and graduate qualifications.
The event spanned all Ara campuses including Woolston, Manawa and Timaru with students at all stages of study exploring their options.
Attending the expo for the first time, the team from Te Ōhaka Centre for Growth and Innovation (which is based at Ara’s City campus), were keen to offer insights to the next generation of founders.
“Partnered with Ara, ChristchurchNZ and the Ministry of Awesome, we are the home of early-stage high-growth start-ups,” Ministry of Awesome Head of Programmes Zach Warder-Gabaldon said.
“We want to take every chance to talk to students about experiential learning. Working in the start-up space helps build confidence in professional skills such as problem solving and collaborating effectively which are of value in whatever path students may take,” he said.
The relationship also featured in the Digital Technologies information session.
“It was great to see so many students are keen to find out more about our relationship with Te Ōhaka, software application courses, our new course on cybersecurity, and the industry collaborations which play into the strong opportunities for employment in our sector,” Department of Business and Digital Technologies Senior Academic Staff member Amit Sarkar said.
The Department's Academic Manager Jeremy Ainsworth said Ara’s small class sizes and practical approach were attractive to students across the wide range of subjects on offer.
Caitlin Gibbs has her sights set on a Bachelor of Accounting at Ara after working hard to get her NCEA and Foundation Studies under her belt.
“Maths and numbers have been my strength, so I’ve always had accounting in mind, but it was good to hear about other subject strands such as Human Resources and Leadership. I can’t wait to get started next year – it feels fresh and modern but I’m going to need a map to find my way around,” she laughs.
Caitlin’s mum Karyn was on hand for support and to help with enrolment.
“It was good to have all the information presented in front of us and not be left to wander around trying to figure things out,” she said.
Potential Dual-enrollees, friends Amelia Holland, Ashley Woods and Danye Takitimu were also drawn to the Business information session.
While Amelia also raced to catch the Architecture presentation, her friends spoke about finding out more about taking Level Three courses at Ara which would allow them to continue at school and their passion for dance this year.
“I still commit a lot of time to dance, but afterwards job-wise I want to build a career in business or law so I’m looking to build on the courses I have taken at school,” Takitimu said.
Woods said she was hoping to be able to have the same flexibility in her learning. “It’s been helpful having to the chance to ask questions and stuff. People have been really nice,” she said.
Sarah Morris and Patricia Wyatt, who described themselves as “best friends and stay-at-home mums” headed into the Open Day to talk to someone about a possible truck driving course.
Instead, the pair came away with clear ideas about enrolling in a carpentry course together. “I like the idea of working with my hands,” said Wyatt. “I’m not very good at reading and writing and stuff but I was always good at Lego. Maybe this is something I can do well.”
Morris confessed that being a tradie was not something she’d ever thought about before the event. “But after talking to people here, I now see that there’s a lot more women doing it and that women are being encouraged to do it.”
“We do everything together, so we might as well do this together too,” said Morris.
Woolston Campus Hub Manager Vanessa Gooch, who introduced the idea of carpentry to Morris and Wyatt, said talking to people about their interests and background often leads to new horizons. What is ‘Ara Experience and Engagement’?
“The beauty of Open Day is that people like them come in with no idea of what they want to do but leave with some concrete options.”
“Many say things like ‘I left school too early’ or ‘I don’t have my NCEA’ but there’s always a pathway for almost every person through our bridging and foundation courses. There are six-month taster courses. There’s a space for everyone here,” she said.
Trades education tends to be a very supportive environment to learn in, Gooch said. “You’re treated like you’re part of a family here. We care about you, and we want you to succeed. There’s a lot of support to do well here.”