A dose of reality: linking students with successful Kiwi mentors

April 2016


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An innovative new partnership sees far-flung, successful Kiwis mentor first-in-family university students as they complete degrees in a range of different fields.

kiwi mentorsNot so long ago, everyone was discussing New Zealand’s brain drain, their voices dropping as they talked gloomily about all New Zealand’s bright young stars heading to the UK and Australia, leaving their homeland devoid of talent.

But Ngapera Riley, global director of the Kea World Class New Zealand network, says they no longer think of Kiwi expats in these terms, but rather as a ‘global asset’.

“There are a million Kiwis living overseas,” says Riley. “That’s 20 per cent of our population.”

Over half of these are members of Kea, or Kiwi Expats Association, a not-for-profit organisation which was launched 15 years ago by Sir Stephen Tindall and Prof David Teece, who were the principal funders initially; Dr George Barker is the third founding director.

The idea behind Kea is that Kiwi expats, or indeed anyone with a love for New Zealand, can connect and collaborate with the help of the Kea Connect network.

As Kea’s values and aims align broadly with those of its education partner, AUT, it was unsurprising that the two organisations would put their heads together to come up with a unique mentoring initiative.

The mentoring programme was launched in March this year, partnering globally successful business people with first-in-family university students.

Fifteen students completing degrees in areas as diverse as hospitality and paramedicine will team up with business professionals who will guide and inspire them.

In keeping with Kea’s ideal of New Zealand as a borderless nation, one of the mentor-student partnerships will see London-based sales director of Orion Health Belinda Allen sharing insights and inspiration with Rebecca Harris, who is completing a Bachelor of Business.

Other mentors include a head chef, a youth services advisor, journalists, television presenters, a software developer and a health researcher.

AUT selected the students and Kea then selected suitable mentors for each student from their global network. Many of the mentors are based in New Zealand, making it easy to meet up with their mentees.

Bachelor of Health Sciences student Kaycee Bottcher will be mentored by Haydn Drake, an intensive care paramedic from St John New Zealand.

Incidentally, Drake is a former AUT student. He is pleased to be giving back to the university and to have the opportunity to help Bottcher follow in his footsteps to become a paramedic. Drake is impressed by how driven and focused she is about her study.

“I think back to when I was her age and I wish I’d been as motivated as she is!” he laughs.

Drake says the chance to mentor someone is useful for making him reflect on aspects of his job. He has also recently embarked on postgraduate study, which he hopes will benefit him in terms of professional and personal development. It seems unlikely that Kea could have matched Bottcher with a better mentor.

Bottcher is looking forward to being mentored by Drake. As a paramedic, he is in a perfect position to offer the career advice and guidance that Bottcher is looking for as she pursues a similar career path.

She anticipates that her connection with her mentor may be useful when it comes to practical work placements, or perhaps further down the track when it comes to finding employment.

Like many of the students selected for the programme, Bottcher is a recipient of a Woolf Fisher First in Family AUT Scholarship. The scholarships are to support and encourage young people from families with no history of successful university education to complete a university degree.

The hope is that the recipients will become key role models in their families and their communities, and mentors of other young people wishing to change their lives through university education.

Riley is delighted that AUT have given the mentoring opportunity to these particular students.

“That is one of the reasons I think AUT is such a fantastic education partner for us. They are truly innovative in their thinking.”

According to AUT Vice-Chancellor Derek McCormack, the concept recognises the need to help students qualify with insights into the reality of their chosen career and exposure to their industry, as well as achieving excellent academic results.

“AUT is focused on providing wide-ranging student experiences that complement their academic learning and in turn increase their employability. Our partnership with Kea provides a unique opportunity for our students to grow and learn with help from internationally experienced New Zealanders.”  

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