Porirua’s Whitireia Community Polytechnic set up New Zealand’s first call centre training course in 2000.
For a fee of $1000, students learnt about customer service, and gained communications, computing and selling skills in the polytechnic’s simulated business centre, the polytechnic’s head of information systems Helen Gardiner said. Learning to manage time and stress also became planks of the course. And students got a taste of the “burgeoning” industry for one of the course’s 12 weeks by shadowing operators in working call centres.
The course, a pilot, was set up jointly by the polytechnic, the Auckland-based Electro technology Training Institute and heavy-duty users of call centres such as the Bank of New Zealand, New Zealand Post and Telecom.
Whitireia Community Polytechnic continues to buck the national trend by continuing to increase student numbers and in 2000 was the biggest polytechnic in Wellington.
The merger between Wellington Polytechnic and Massey University left the way clear for Whitireia to become the largest locally, with full-time student numbers expected to get close to 2000 in the year 2000.
Chief executive Deidre Dale said the merger had also resulted in the Porirua-based polytechnic picking up two extra courses that Massey no longer wanted to teach – sign making and an electrical course. New courses being offered were journalism, information technology and catering.
Last year they could not get enough, now they are overflowing. Whitireia Community Polytechnic's Bachelor of Nursing programme has accepted 90 students into the first year of its three-year course - 20 more than they were anticipating. School for Nursing and Health head Jan Pearson says they are coping with the unexpected influx. She says one priority is to find extra space and that means negotiating with other tutors who have more suitable rooms.
Mrs Pearson says she is unsure why the nursing course has suddenly become popular. "We are hearing from clinical areas out there that our students are excellent performers in the work place. They have good communication and nursing skills. Our graduates are getting jobs based on their performance."
A new horticulture classroom has sprung up below Camp Elsdon, the culmination of two years’ effort by tutor Tony Tomlin, Whitireia students and camp staff.
The classroom, an extension of Whitireia Polytechnic, was originally suggested by students who wanted to continue with an advanced certificate after completing the one year National Certificate in Horticulture.
Mr Tomlin says it will enable him to give students more practical skills in hard landscaping such as site surveying, construction and native plant propagation. He is also eager to introduce components of conservation and ecology. He said he has verbal authority from Porirua City Council to take plants and seedlings from the reserve for propagation, tying in with regeneration plans for Colonial Knob.
Students have already begun landscaping the site at the start of 2000, and Mr Tomlin plans to grow native trees which can then be labelled and used as an education resource for the many school groups which visit Camp Elsdon.
The classroom was blessed by camp manager Gary Cooper at an opening ceremony attended by camp staff as well as Whitireia students and representatives. Past chair Claire Clark cut the ribbon, saying she had been waiting a long time for the honor.
Whitireia Polytechnic art student Andy Tauafiafi got a double surprise with the success of his framed woodcut Freedom at the Millennium Youth Art Awards. The 23-year-old artist received one of the two premier awards, getting $1000, but the unexpected bonus came when he was told his winning woodcut would be on its way to Brunei. That's where this year's Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation summit is being held, and Tauafiafi's winning piece will be included in an APEC youth art exhibition.
Mr Tauafiafi said when he entered the competition organised by the Academy of Fine Arts, there was no mention of a special award involving APEC. "It was a big surprise to know I'd be representing New Zealand. The cash prize was a big shock, and the APEC award just topped it off. I didn't expect to get anything," he said.
Residing in Newlands, Mr Tauafiafi is in his third year of study at Whitireia. Next year he plans to either undertake the advanced programme or try to make a living as an artist. He said his art has been strongly influenced by his studies, and that tutor Michel Tuffery had shown him a lot about the business side of art.