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At senior prize giving in Sacred Heart Girls’ College in New Plymouth, there was a new award handed out, a huge surprise to the winner. Kyah Jones is the first recipient of the Prime Minister’s Vocational Excellence Award at her school.

She said, “It was a good surprise. I was in shock because I don’t really like going up on stage in front of everyone.” But she went up and got her award which included a $2,000 prize.

The inaugural Prime Minister’s Vocational Excellence Award aims to raise the status of vocational education and recognise the achievements of students.

Leader of Learning for Pathways at Sacred Heart, Warwick Foy, who nominated Kyah was pleased she got the award. He said, “It was time to celebrate other types of success.”

By Term 3, Kyah has completed a Level 3 qualification, the New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing in Health Assistance, through Careerforce’s Gateway programme. It’s a 70 credit NZQA recognised qualification.

“I’ve done this because I wanted to go further in what I wanted to do when I finish school. I want to be a paramedic,” Kyah shared.

“I quite enjoyed Gateway and I think I succeeded the most in this subject this year. I got to do a placement where I get to help the elderly. I helped a lot in their activities and in preparing their tea.”

“They tell you a lot about their life and they also give you advice on your life. I really loved it.”

She is now certain of her career pathway. “I’ve finished school so now my plan is to do nursing to get more background that will help me for paramedicine.” She said the $2,000 prize will go towards her studies.

Warwick said that it was an easy pick nominating Kyah. “She completed that New Zealand certificate in record time, she had a great placement, she is a star. Her teachers helped her along but she worked really hard and made some good choices.”

He is pleased that this award idea that originated from a Careers and Transition Education (CATE) Association meeting gained momentum. He said any or all career pathway need to be supported.

“If someone wants to be a hairdresser, an airline pilot, or be the prime minister, that’s great. We don’t say, ‘you’re better than that or you can’t be that’.”

There is still a societal perception that vocational education or a career in trades or services is inferior. Warwick said, “if that’s what they [young people] want to do, then let’s support them.”

He congratulates and recognises Kyah on her achievement. To Kyah, he says, “You are an amazing person and a good role model to young wahine that they can do and achieve anything.”