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All for change

Solomoni Biumaiono
Monday, November 12, 2012

HIGH school drop-out John Kotoisuva is helping secondary school students in New Zealand make better career choices and paths through a mentoring program that is run by his C-Me Mentoring Foundation Trust.

John, 57, a steel construction engineer by profession started his mentoring program in Auckland after seeing many students suffer, especially upon entering the building and construction industry.

"One of the loop holes in the (New Zealand) education system is that they never recognise that not all children are academic and this is true especially for Pacific Islanders and Maoris who disengage from the formal education sector.

"The level of demand the industry requires and the level the education system produces is not comparable they are not just good enough for the industry and I think this is a common problem for every country," Kotoisuva says.

He dropped out from Form Five at Marist Brothers' High School in 1980, found work in the same year and has never looked back.

The Moce islander completed an apprenticeship with a steel construction company before he started his own contracting company before the 1987 coup forced him to move to New Zealand.

In New Zealand John was a self-employed engineer and also tutored at the Auckland University of Technology, teaching engineering apprenticeship with Apprentice Training New Zealand before he started his own mentoring foundation four years ago.

"So what I am doing is to build a bridge which facilitates and manages the transition of young people from schools into the industry because as an industry assessor for seven years what I saw there was a high termination rate of apprentices because a lot of young people coming into the apprentices have no idea of what they're in for," Kotoisuva says.

There are 17 secondary schools and 150 students enrolled in his mentoring program compared to four secondary schools when he started four years ago.

Apart from steel construction mentoring, the foundation has now expanded to include students in the manufacturing and aviation industries.

Kotoisuva's foundation has practically taken the year one apprenticeship to senior students in their last two years in high school.

Schools are not obligated to establish formal classes but students need to gain their work experience during the holidays

"It is a matter of understanding what the industry is all about earlier on in secondary school before they exit the school system," he says.

In order for students to qualify for this mentoring program it need their parents' consent as well as their support and this is a mandatory criterion because Kotoisuva says parental involvement is critical to students' success.

"It's about helping young people make proper choices in the subjects they choose, especially the senior students," Kotoisuva says.

In 2005 Kotoisuva ran for public office and even though he wasn't successful, he says this was borne out of his vision to help students cope with life after high school.

"I was interested because I wanted to make a difference and to make a difference quickly.

"Upon seeing this need, this is what drove me into politics and I learnt a few things about being involved in politics you don't need to be in government to make a change in your society, you can make a change from wherever you're," he says.

The Moce man is now serving on many advisory boards with the Ministry of Education as well as the Tertiary Education Commission.

"And I also support anybody who can further the cause and the vision of our foundation which is to empower the next generation through industry."





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