High school students gain experience on Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway


A group of high school students interested in a career in infrastructure have gained valuable insight into what it’s like to work on one of New Zealand’s major highway projects.

Above: Six young people have been visiting the Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway project up to twice a week over the past few months, gaining valuable insight and providing practical experience on a major construction project, as part of the NZ Certificate in Infrastructure Works, Level 2, they’re completing with UCOL | Te Pūkenga.

The six teenagers have completed an internship on the Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway Project, as part of the requirements of the NZ Certificate in Infrastructure Works, Level 2, they’re completing with UCOL | Te Pūkenga.

The interns have been visiting the site up to twice a week since April to take part in a range of activities. The visits are designed to provide practical experience on a major construction project while they complete the certificate.

The 11.5km-long, four-lane highway is being constructed between Ashhurst and Woodville to replace the road through the Manawatū Gorge, which closed in 2017 following a series of slips. 

During the visits, the interns have taken a ride in a dump truck with the earthworks teams, helped the landscapers with plants, reviewed tests at the onsite laboratory, gained knowledge of the project’s tikanga and cultural context with kaitiaki, and checked sediment ponds with the environmental team.

Alongside the field experience, project staff have also taken the interns through sessions to develop their core skills, such as financial literacy, communication and team building exercises.

One of the graduates, Elaine Wilman, says the programme has given her the opportunity to experience many aspects of highway construction.

“Way more than what I expected. I thought it was just, sit there with a lollipop stick and spin it.”

The internships are part of the partnership between UCOL | Te Pūkenga and the Alliance to provide students and staff from both organisations with access to skills, training and knowledge that will benefit them, their whānau, the community and the wider construction sector. The organisations have been working together since 2020, and signed a Statement of Intent outlining the partnership in 2021.

Waka Kotahi Owner Interface Manager Grant Kauri says the interns are a perfect example of the project’s intention to provide enduring community outcomes.

“This project is about more than just building a highway. We want to provide training, support and knowledge to people in this region interested in pursuing careers in infrastructure and construction with the hope that they will put those skills to use throughout the rohe when we leave.

“By providing these interns with experience on our site, we hope to inspire them to pursue a career in the construction and infrastructure sector. But we also want them to realise that it’s not all earthmoving and heavy machinery, as this project also employs landscapers, cultural advisors, accountants, ecologists, designers and more.”

UCOL | Te Pūkenga Executive Director Business & Industry Partnerships, Jasmine Groves, said the six rangatahi are participating in the UCOL | Te Pūkenga U-Skills Trade Academy.

“U-Skills allows rangatahi to stay in school, while gaining tertiary qualifications they can use to enter industry once they’ve finished school.”

"Our partnership with Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway project has provided our students with a unique opportunity that will help set them up for life after school.”

A ceremony to celebrate the interns, who attend Palmerston North Boys’ High School, Tararua College and Taihape Area School, was held at the site on 18 August, where Grant Kauri, Jasmine Groves and Project Director Tony Adams presented those in attendance with certificates.

The project intends to continue offering student internships and talks are ongoing with UCOL | Te Pūkenga around future opportunities.

Enrol for a course at UCOL | Te Pūkenga(external link)  

Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway project


Above: Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway Owner Interface Manager, Grant Kauri (Back left), and Project Director, Tony Adams (Back right), presented (Front row, left to right) Elaine Wilman, James Jenkins, Eli Coe, Blake Holden and Israel Bailey with their certificates yesterday (Thursday 18 August).