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SEED projects 2018 – He vaka moana: Navigating Māori and Pasifika student success

Work-related learning and Māori student success

Dr Tia DawesDr Tia Dawes (Career Development and Employability Services)

The purpose of the study was to explore the premise that work-related learning (WRL) provides an effective means of testing and applying knowledge gained through academic studies to the world of work. WRL activities make use of the context of work to develop the skills and knowledge required for success in the workplace.

Participants were consistently positive about their experiences and were able to articulate their understandings of the workplace and to communicate aspirations beyond the University. They focused less on how their study was applied in the workplace and more on their understanding of workplace culture and cultural fit. As a result, these students were better positioned to think about potential career pathways and, indeed, were nominating fields of interest and potential employers.

There was a tendency for participants to look at the services provided within faculty, before turning to the centralised Careers Development and Employability Services (CDES). Their first point of contact was often with Māori academic and professional staff and peer support networks within faculty. Peer networks functioned in the form of tuākana/ tēina (but not necessarily the Tuākana programme) and were pivotal in a number of student experiences. Younger students looked for support, while older students looked to provide that support and be “accountable” to younger students coming into tertiary study.

The study drew my attention to the evolving nature of Māori identity and the range of experiences of our Māori students. A number of participants spoke of not being “Māori enough” to attend Māori-specific events, but nonetheless identified as Maori. The contemporary reality for these students is that they are removed from their ancestral home by three generations or more, and operate in a world where they are less traditionally culture- bound. A number of participants saw University as an opportunity to build their identity by connecting with other Māori through peer-support structures. This desire to work within Māori processes and ways of being is an opportunity for the University to provide a transformative experience for many of its Māori students.

The value of WRL activities was expressed by all participants and is being communicated back to CDES which is looking to create and develop opportunities with external employers. Perhaps of more benefit for students was the opportunity to connect with other Māori students from other disciplines in a specifically Māori context.