1. Prioritise developing the skills that are in demand by global employers
Professor Jamie Collins is Chair of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, in New Zealand’s South Island. He is passionate about giving students skills they will be able to use as soon as they graduate, whether they’re launching a start-up or becoming expert problem-solvers within multinational businesses.
“There are lots of smart people, but being smart is not good enough in a competitive world. You have to be able to solve problems,” says Jamie.
“Students here have the opportunity to analyse problems and figure out how to solve them, which is what they will be doing for the rest of their working lives.
“Whatever path they choose, we give students the practical experience, problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills and confidence they need to make an impact.”
2. Working collaboratively helps you develop valuable social, communication and leadership skills
Professor Kathleen Campbell from the University of Auckland investigates the origins of life on Earth, and asks whether life might exist on other planets. A former researcher at US space agency NASA, Kathleen gives her students opportunities to collaborate nationally and internationally.
“Different skill sets, people with different personalities and different world views – you've got to bring them together for big problem-solving,” she says.
“New Zealand is the perfect environment for dynamic and active research. We have a lot of collaboration and fantastic ties around the world, so students get access to top scientists and top instruments.
“My students help each other out in their different field areas, and we come up with different ideas. The students sometimes solve a problem I can't solve. We all work together.”
3. Gaining work experience in your industry gives you important practical skills as well as theoretical knowledge
Professor Margo Barton is Academic Leader of Fashion at Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin, in New Zealand’s South Island. She is founder and creative director of the iD International Emerging Designer show in Dunedin, which is Australasia’s largest fashion competition for final-year students and graduates.
“Our students are given the opportunity to be directly involved in the show,” says Margo.
“They are backstage dressing, and they work as event assistants, PR assistants and designer assistants for our guest designers. They get to meet the finalists, discuss their work with them and be exposed to emerging technologies that they may not have seen before.
“Work experience is vital because this is how students see how things work and find out the possibilities. Sometimes they decide they want to do something else within fashion; sometimes they end up with a role in the industry.
“Finalists and winners have gone on to launch their own labels.”
4. Seize opportunities to think creatively and develop your own ideas
Dr Faith Kane is a senior lecturer in textile design at Massey University’s School of Design in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city. She encourages her students to adopt design thinking – a mindset that prepares them for the fast-changing future of work.
“New Zealand is very open to new ideas and new thinking,” says Faith.
“There's a real sense that anyone can have a go at anything and the freedom to fail and to learn from that and to move on. Innovation can emerge and flourish.”
“My hope is that students will leave with a desire to improve the world around us for future generations and have the creativity, critical thinking and technical skills to make those dreams a reality.”
5. Studying in an open and welcoming society can give you the confidence to become the best you can be
Mark Hanlen is a marine studies teacher at Whakatane High School, in New Zealand’s North Island. He brings the Māori concept of manaakitanga, or reciprocal hospitality and respect, into his classrooms.
“Manaakitanga to me means sharing and collaborating with your arms open,” Mark says.
“I believe the New Zealand education system is unique because teachers focus a lot on the relationships we have with our students. Here, we give students more opportunities for one-on-one.
“I encourage teamwork and a sense of family and belonging in my classes, and I take a personal interest in the lives of my students. In that sense, I'm more than just a teacher.
“I guess that's the Kiwi way.”