Choosing the right career pathway is one of the biggest challenges a young person faces. It often comes at a time when they are coming to grips with adulthood and transitioning away from a structured school environment, or perhaps even leaving home for the first time.
The best you can do is to support them through this transition and provide them with as much quality information that you can. Hopefully this results in them making a sound choice that serves them well both now and into the future.
We recognise that this is a challenging time, and we've tried to put as much impartial information as possible in one place to make this transition easier. We hope you find it useful.
Where do I get information on the free fees policy the government has introduced?
What's the difference between universities, polytechnics, and institutes of technology?
Traditionally, polytechnics and institutes of technology (or 'techs') focused on practical vocational training and universities focused on theoretical academic qualifications, but there is now is a significant overlap between the two tertiary options.
Many techs now offer a range of degree level courses and direct pathways from certificates and diplomas into complementary university degrees.
Some subjects, like dentistry and medicine can only be studied at university, and 'techs are still the logical choice for other subjects like trade qualifications, but where both options produce the same qualification (for example a Bachelor of Business or a Bachelor of Sport and Recreation) research suggests that employers usually make no distinction between a qualification gained from a university or a technical institute.
Apart from meeting the minimum course requirements, what else would be helpful to gain entry?
For many courses, subject selection at school is very important, as well as the results achieved. If the students wants to do a science based course without science, or engineering without maths for example, they may be out of luck. However for some other courses, a student’s attitude and reasons for choosing that area of study are the most important qualities that tutors are looking for.
To have the widest options available, doing English, science and maths for as long as they can at school will help their chances. Interview technique is important too - many courses require an interview prior to enrolment. Things for your student to think about beforehand include; why they have chosen that particular career path and what they want to do in the future? Asking some intelligent questions about the course also helps!
They should be punctual, engaged and enthusiastic in their interview to show that they are keen. Finally, any work experience, paid or voluntary in their area of choice, shows that they have put some thought into their future career.
How do students choose the right career and qualification?
Some students follow in their parents’ footsteps, some do what they know or what they are good at and some just want to go their own way.
Whatever the decision, it’s important that it's driven by them so they take ownership of their education and feel motivated to finish what they start. Doing something because they have nothing better to do or because they feel pressured to will often result in bad choices and poor completion rates. Students need to be up for the challenge and positive about their choices.
Here are some ideas to help steer the decision making process:
- survey to find areas of interest (CareersNZ)
- check out Immigration New Zealand's long and short-term shortage list
How much does it cost to study full-time?
Fees range from free courses that run for a couple of weeks, to six month courses (17 academic weeks) which cost around $2500 to $3000, to full year courses (34 academic weeks). The length of course, whether it’s full or part-time, online or on campus, and what resources are needed etc. will affect the cost.
Sometimes fees are set, and sometimes they're broken down per topic or ‘paper’, which are credit bearing subjects e.g. a topic or paper in a business qualification might be $763, and the student has to complete eight a year (four per semester) so that's $6,104 plus around $80-$140 for books, per topic or paper. In some specialist study like medicine or dentistry, the costs can be much higher. For a full breakdown of fees, refer to each institution’s website.
What's the entry criteria for certificates, diplomas and degrees?
In simplistic terms, some certificates are ‘open entry’ where no formal qualifications are needed to get in, and others e.g. Level 3 or 4 certificates, students need NCEA at Level 1 or Level 2 from school depending on the course.
Diplomas require Level 2 or Level 3 and it's good to keep an eye on the entry criteria throughout the year as a goal to work towards.
Each institution will have different entry criteria and some universities have a points system (based on achievement of Merits and Excellence). Some courses require an interview, character reference or a police check, and some require students to submit a portfolio of work.
For a full explanation visit each institution’s website. For mature students or students over 20 years old with relevant experience, the entry criteria may be waived on a case by case basis.
What can students do while still at school to confirm their areas of interest?
Most schools should have a comprehensive careers department. If your son or daughter has somehow managed to avoid it completely, it may be an idea to book an appointment and have a talk about what options are available to them.
There are work experience opportunities through the gateway programme, Star programmes, access to trades academies, career education classes, and guest speakers from industry and education providers. Often there are also field trips to careers expos and tertiary institutions' open days, which are good ways to see what’s on offer.
To get started, have a look at:
What if a student doesn't have the grades to do what they want?
One of the good things about polytechnics is that there are courses that start at all levels.
Students could have University Entrance and embark directly on a path to a degree. Sometimes students can gain entry to a course based on their Year 12 results, otherwise there are short ‘preparation for study' programmes, or bridging in maths, numeracy and literacy embedded in lower level courses. Students often can opt for a full year bridging course, or start in a certificate and then step up to diploma or degree level the year after.
For mature students (over 20) entry is often discretionary, based on previous achievements and life experience.
Whatever your student’s situation, each institution should have systems in place to help you achieve your goals. There is always a way to get there, it sometimes just takes a bit more time and effort on the student’s part!
What's expected of students once they move on to tertiary study?
Transition to tertiary study is either a welcome relief or a bit of a shock for young students coming straight from school.
All of a sudden the student is a paying client who is there by choice, so they need to be self-motivated, organised, punctual and responsible for their own learning. There are also consequences to failure. At a cost of sometimes thousands of dollars per year plus expenses, the student needs to be sure about their subject choice and commited to finishing what they start.
At Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology we're committed to helping students achieve their goals. Even though we expect our students to take ownership of their learning, support systems are in place to help them succeed. Relationships with tutors are all on a first name basis and are very real. Our success and retention statistics are excellent and, with an industry focus built into our courses, we're confident that we are setting students up for the best chance of success.