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Falling in love with school again

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Vocational Pathways, supporting young people to get the qualifications they need.

Ezra Taulamana is a girl with a lot of love. She loves performance, dance, singing, drawing, painting, and art. She also has a lot of love for her family, and her church. But last year what she didn’t love was school.

The Year 13 student had relocated with her family to Christchurch. She didn’t settle and dropped out before completing NCEA Level 3.

"The subjects were different. I wasn’t inspired and I just disengaged. I decided school wasn’t for me."

Ezra’s parents run a painting and labouring business and with "a ton of earthquake repair work to be done" it was a case of all hands on deck. Ezra started doing the admin and is now the business’ health and safety manager.

But Ezra doesn’t want to work in her parents’ painting business forever. On attending a ‘Get a taste of Hagley - Do what you love in 2015 ’ open night, she had an inspiring conversation with Gavin Hewitt, Head Teacher for one of the College’s newest schools - the School of Animation and Digital Design.

"I was thinking I’d like to do something with dance or music and I ended up having this awesome conversation with Gavin. At the School of Animation and Digital Design I found I could incorporate all my passions."

Gavin explains students can focus on subjects they are interested in. Due to the collaboration within the College, signing up for the Animation and Digital Design course means Ezra also works with students in the Hagley Theatre Company and the School of Fashion.

"In the past we had only offered animation as a subject. This year we’ve taken in a step further and have turned it into a full-time course. There has been plenty of demand. The 20 spaces filled up within a couple of weeks," says Gavin.

"When students study subjects in areas which are relevant and interesting to them, then they are much more likely to stay at school and remain engaged with their learning", says Arthur Graves, the Ministry of Education’s Group Manager for Youth Guarantee.

Students on the Hagley School of Animation and Digital Design course work towards NCEA Level 3, and University Entrance. As well as the required numeracy and literacy components, the course covers 3D modeling, creature design, story boarding, animation, digital painting and illustration, character design, mechanical design, graphic design, type and image sequencing, compositing, camera skills, studio lighting and photographic compositing.

It fits in the creative section of Vocational Pathways and there is a clear pathway and links to further study at Auckland’s Media Design School, Massey Univeristy, CPIT Christchurch and AUT, Auckland.

"We have a proud history of past students achieving national and international success as artists in the film and gaming industries. It’s great to be able to talk to students about where they could end up," says Gavin.

"We can talk about students who have gone on to work at Weta and we can also tell them about former students like James Ellis and Tom Robinson who have both had art featured in Into the Pixel a collection of video game art debuted at E3. (The Electronic Entertainment Expo is an annual international trade fair for the video games industry.) "Hearing from people successful in industry is very inspiring for our students."

Consequently Ezra is loving school again and can see a clear path to an exciting future. Following her parent’s lead as outreach workers she’ll be applying for an internship with ARISE church in 2016.

"ARISE is very embracing of new ideas and with the skills I’m learning at the School of Animation and Digital Design I’ll be able to do productions and video. I feel very excited about what I’m doing and what I’ll be able to put out into the world," she says.

Hands-on experience key to students being work-ready

Wellington concept artist Tom Robinson says the biggest barrier for graduates being work ready is a lack of industry experience.

This barrier is exactly what the Ministry of Education’s Youth Guarantee Vocational Pathways initiative is aimed at addressing.

By designing programmes around the six Vocational Pathways, schools can work in partnership with industry to offer students hands-on training to learn real life skills. This will make their learning more relevant, and may make securing employment easier as they will have real industry experience to draw upon. Students can also earn credits toward NCEA, helping them get their qualifications while doing something they enjoy.

27-year-old Tom works for Wellington company, PikPok, a developer and publisher of iOS, Android and computer games. He says schools have come a long way in the subjects and programmes they offer since he was a student. He is pleased that the animation night class at Hagley College, which inspired his career, has now developed into a fulltime programme, with good links to relevant tertiary providers such as Auckland’s Design School and Massey University in Wellington. The Hagley College Animation and Digital Design School covers Tom’s field of expertise - concept art - which is a form of illustration used to convey an idea, most commonly in films, video games, animation or comic books before it is put into the final product.

"What is important when we hire people at entry level is they are able to demonstrate a high level of artistic skill. A personal portfolio should showcase talent; passion and enthusiasm should be evident. Being able to communicate and fit into a team is also important," Tom says.

Gavin Hewitt, Head Teacher for Hagley College’s School of Animation and Digital Design says this type of feedback from industry is exactly why there is collaboration within the college and why the ‘schools within a school’ initiative works so well. Students in the Animation and Digital Design course work closely with the Hagley Dance Company, Hagley Theatre Company, the School of Fashion and the Writers’ Institute.

He explains: "This year Fashion Design students are developing costumes with a WW1 and WW2 theme. Animation and Digital Design students will take videos of the costumes and add 3D effects. As well as leaving school with NCEA Level 3, and University Entrance these animation students have a portfolio of work, a reel, a short film, supporting material and motion title sequences. Fashion students also have an amazing DVD of their work."

Gavin says due to the nature of the film business and its need for secrecy, there are challenges to working directly with industry, but both he and Tom agree there is an amazing online community, where you can learn anything and people are passionate and generous in sharing their skills.

It was Gavin who introduced Tom to ‘Behind the Scenes - Lord of the Rings’. "I saw people using their hands, drawing and sculpting and it created a mental link. It really excited me and I began seeing art as a serious career opportunity. I was always the kid doodling all over my text-books but it was this that opened my eyes to a world of professional artists and high calibre artwork."

Now, compared to Tom’s time at school, the link to a successful creative pathway is much clearer. Students at Hagley’s Animation and Digital Design School can study what they enjoy, get hands-on, relevant experience with the added knowledge it is exactly what industry is looking for.

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