Q: New Zealand Tertiary College has always been well known for its early childhood education qualifications. What prompted NZTC to branch out into providing health and wellbeing courses? 

Selena Fox (pictured left): Several years ago, in discussion with our college board, we identified a need in the health sector for tertiary training for healthcare assistants. In learning more about the sector we understood that there were thousands of incredibly experienced healthcare workers without qualifications to support them in their professional roles. With our population increasing and the baby boomers ageing, the demand for healthcare assistants to look after the elderly is constantly increasing. With new qualifications being released, we wanted to provide programs to support the upskilling of the sector.

Q: What health and wellbeing qualifications do you currently deliver?

Fox: We currently offer Level 3 and Level 4 programs which lead to the New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing (Advanced Support) (Level 4) and New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing – Health Assistance Strand (Level 3). Our programs have a strong focus on person-centred care and practical components, with our college values woven through each course. It’s of the upmost importance to us to not just graduate a student with a qualification, but graduate a student with a qualification who will make a difference in the lives of their clients through their advanced knowledge woven with love, care, and respect for each person.

Q: Tell us a bit about your first waves of health and wellbeing students. Are they typically new to the field or experienced but looking to upskill? What has the feedback from students been?

Fox: We have had a positive mixture of students in our first year. Positive for the sector today and for the sector in the years ahead.

Many of our students have years of experience and are looking to achieve a qualification to complement their years of experience. We are also sharing our new courses with high schools and Young Mum community programs, and we are thrilled to see younger students take up this study and consider healthcare as a profession for their years ahead.

The majority of our students are balancing their studies with practical work commitments, so they’re blending theory with real-life practice and enjoying the flexibility of online learning. To support their learning, students are leaning into the extensive and unique NZTC student support which includes regular support tutorials, IT support and an incredibly dedicated team of lecturers. Here is some student feedback we’ve received:

“NZTC is setting the standard and it is my prayer that NZTC grow this initiative to the point where it becomes the benchmark in New Zealand by which health and wellbeing services are delivered to our aged,” said Level 3 graduate Richard Steveni.

“This was my first time studying online. I don’t have time to go to school, and there aren’t any options available to do a Level 3 where I live in Northland, so this was a good opportunity for me,” said Level 3 graduate Satomi Chave.

“Through this program, the college helps you to open your eyes, look around yourself and have a clear perspective, helping you to gain the skills you need to assist clients to achieve better health outcomes and live the quality life they wish for,” said Level 4 student Ella Zhang.

Q: Do you have any collaboration with health and wellbeing industry in terms of finding out what employers are looking for? Please share any employer feedback that you’d like to share.

Fox: One of our most important steps early on was the establishment of our Health and Wellbeing Advisory Committee. This group of industry stakeholders have been invaluable to us as we have learnt alongside the health and wellbeing community. Our Advisory Committee is made up of sector professionals including specialist medical, nursing and healthcare team members from the aged care and associated professions, a student and a graduate representative, and the wisdom of our very own mature voice – a carer with over 30 years’ experience helping others in various roles.

We also have spent time over the past year building important learning relationships with trained healthcare professionals in the sector who our students work alongside in their practice. We are hugely indebted to their support, advice, guidance and commitment to growing the caring profession student by student.

Q: One of NZTC’s strength’s is as a flexible learning provider. Has this translated well into the health and wellbeing field? (Perhaps you could briefly outline a bit about how your flexible learning system works)

Fox: Our flexible learning modes support students to balance their work, family and life commitments with their study. Our health and wellbeing students are finding our study options and extensive student support really helpful during their studies. We have online, blended learning and college based options available with practical components included so work activities are included within the assessments. Our students choose whether they want to study solely online, pursue online and practical components, or study at the college.

In working closely alongside the first year of students we have listened to their voices and have added even more support for them to lean into as they need. Academic support is available to students at any time. Students can request this via their personal online learning environment for individual teaching follow up, pastoral support, learning support, access to videos, and face to face support workshops.

Q: How do you ensure the practical elements of these qualifications are being met?

Fox: The practical elements differ depending on the program and mode of learning selected. All of our programs are approved by Careerforce and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and therefore meet the practical components outlined by them. Many of our students enjoy the blended learning mode of study as it allows them to study both online and have their practical work aspects included in their assessments.

Q: Has the care and support workers’ pay equity settlement had any bearing on your courses, given that there is more incentive for workers to upskill and get qualified?

Fox: Graduates have certainly valued this move that complements their passion and acknowledges in another way the importance of their care profession.

We have certainly noticed that this has encouraged younger students to consider the profession and training as there has been talk of continued professional growth and acknowledgment of this through qualifications. This certainly shows some healthy interest in the future of our care profession.

Q: Upon reflecting on the first year of delivering health and wellbeing qualifications, is there anything you’d like to change or do differently going forward?

Fox: We went into this year deciding to work closely alongside our students and their colleagues in the sector work places. In doing this we also sought feedback from them at each step of the way. On reflection this decision to walk alongside the students seeking regular formal and informal feedback, both written and face to face, has been the difference factor both in the support networks we have built around the NZTC healthcare student, and the stunningly passionate, values-based graduates NZTC is proud to have supported to achieve their goals.

I know that we will look back in the years to come continuing to be incredibly grateful for the voices of these students from all corners of the sector and community. Their passion, commitment to ongoing learning, to offering feedback and to not being afraid to speak up and ask for support when needed has paved the way for all future NZTC students and graduates of our healthcare programs of study.

Q: What future health and wellbeing qualifications do you have in the pipeline, or would like to add at some stage?

Fox: We’re looking forward to introducing a Level 5 qualification in 2018. We’ve been working hard to develop the programs to support it in 2017 and it will provide a great pathway for our students to transition from Level 3 to Level 4 and then onto Level 5 before perhaps considering if they would like to take their career in the health sector further with a degree option beyond NZTC.

Q: Are there any other fields beyond early childhood education and health and wellbeing that NZTC might consider expanding into in the future?

Fox: Our first 35 years was spent solely specialising in early childhood teacher preparation and postgraduate qualifications. We are still learning each and every day.

We certainly did not take the introduction of Health and Wellbeing qualifications lightly. In fact, we have been researching and learning about the sector for a number of years already, including programs of volunteering for our academic team members in a variety of sector settings before we even decided to move forward to develop the programs we have today.

I think we have our work cut out for ourselves for a time, and we are looking forward to continuing to learn each day from the passionate carers throughout NZ who we have loved getting to know in this new support endeavour.

Certainly, if there is anything further, I have a few ideas of possible expansions of support areas for our students and future students that will make their study and the achieving of their goals more positive.

So expanding? No, not at this stage. Enhancing what we are already doing for the health and wellbeing sector and our students’ learning opportunities – very much so…yes!

For more information visit www.nztertiarycollege.ac.nz (09) 520 4000 / (03) 366 8000

Feature image: NZTC’s first health and wellbeing graduates.

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