Access lifelong learning mana

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For most New Zealanders, education ends when we enter the workforce. The Mind Lab is trying to change this by offering higher education without the barriers of time and money.

The value of lifelong learning is undeniable, especially at a time when technological advances are rapidly changing the way we work. But for many people, the cost – and time – required to go back to school is too high to allow them to leave their careers to continue their education.

Traditionally, New Zealanders do not continue participate in formal studies once we enter the workforce. In addition to the financial costs, which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, continuing to study also has social and professional implications, such as the need to take time off from work and difficulties balancing school and family.

In response to these obstacles, over the past eight years, The Mind Lab has awarded more than $ 10 million in scholarships and allocated an additional $ 550,000 for scholarships in 2022. The higher education organization wants to facilitate access to studies for all, not only by offering these scholarships, but by designing courses that adapt to full-time work schedules.

“One of the things that has always amazed me is that New Zealand professionals have the lowest professional development rates in the OECD. We don’t really have a culture of learning as adults, ”says Frances Valintine, CEO and founder of The Mind Lab.

“When you start working, you work your way up the ranks, but you’re not looking to spend time honing yourself and understanding the changes in the marketplace, technological advancements and changing expectations. “

Founded by Valintine in 2013, The Mind Lab was created to empower people to meet the challenges of the future by introducing them to collaborative digital discovery and problem solving. Postgraduate programs are designed to build capacity to meet the demands of an ever-changing world.

Frances Valintine, founder of The Mind Lab (Image: Matt Crawford).

In our already low rates of continuing education, Maori, Pasifikas and people over 60 are even more under-represented. The three Mind Lab scholarships – the Tangata Whenua scholarship, the Pacific Ako scholarship, and the Taipakeke scholarship – serve these groups, in the hope that some of these inequalities can be corrected.

“The skills I am learning have touched me a lot. The most important thing for me is to reflect on what we have learned and how we can apply it in the real world. All the research shows us that leaders are those who are constantly learning and improving, ”says Lillian Bartlett (Te Whānau-à-Apanui, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa).

The entrepreneur and mother of five currently runs a professional basketball skills development business alongside her husband. After signing up for the Digital Skills for the Workplace micro-certificate earlier this year, Bartlett decided she would ask for more graduate studies with The Mind Lab, although he does not have an undergraduate degree. To her surprise, Bartlett was accepted into the Leading change for good program based on her previous work experience, and was also a recipient of the full price Tangata Whenua scholarship.

“I had a level four diploma but I didn’t really have confidence in myself, which comes from the Maori educational trauma. Getting into The Mind Lab and having an alternative holistic education and having a support person made me feel like I was going to make it. I was encouraged and I felt empowered, ”says Bartlett.

Having gained confidence and skills through her participation in the program, Bartlett has now enrolled in a Bachelor of Applied Management at Otago Polytechnic and is also working with her local council. Bartlett thanks The Mind Lab for giving him the skills and confidence to be a formidable presence in such spaces.

“I wouldn’t be happy to be sitting at these tables if I wasn’t on the course, and knowing that I have the support and that I have the knowledge and education to be successful in my industry,” she says.

Li Wang (Image: provided)

The original goal of the Mind Lab was to equip teachers with the skills and knowledge to remain effective educators, and a number of program participants are grateful for what they learned before the forced switch to digital learning. and teaching in online classrooms due to the pandemic.

“If I wanted to continue teaching, I thought I’d better update my knowledge, otherwise I’d be late,” says Li Wang, a teacher at Mount Albert Grammar School.

In 2015, the 66-year-old woman received a Taipakeke scholarship which allowed her to participate in Mind Lab’s Master in Contemporary Education program. The benefits of the course were many for Wang, who says the course made it easy for her to tailor her teaching to the needs of digital learners.

“Because this is a contemporary education focused on collaboration and digital literacy, it has been very helpful given the changes that have taken place with Covid-19. Not only did I acquire the skills I needed and I gained the knowledge, but also the self-confidence, ”Wang says.

The value of lifelong learning is what drives Mind Lab courses, prompting students to assess the benefits of continuing education for their own lives – professional and personal. Tania Bailey, Customer Manager at Spark, sees herself as a lifelong learner and says the willingness to learn helps her keep up with an ever-changing world.

Tania Bailey, left, and Lillian Bartlett, right (Images: provided)

After spending time considering all of the study options available to her, Bailey was drawn to The Mind Lab programs for a number of reasons. The participants’ ability to harness their strengths, such as being able to record a video of themselves speaking rather than having to write an essay, appealed to her, as well as the multicultural environment that gave priority to learning te ao maori.

“I’m still learning and I’m always changing who I am. It was about putting me in a new environment. The Mind Lab was a little different, as their classes were rooted in Maori Ao, ”Bailey explains.

With the help of The Mind Lab’s Pacific Ako Fellowship, Bailey was able to improve her skills without having to worry about the financial impacts that studying can often have.

“I don’t think I would have studied more if I hadn’t received the scholarship. If I hadn’t had the scholarship, it would have been a huge financial burden for me.

In addition to being equipped with the requisite skills, knowledge and confidence, students recognize the help and support they have received outside of the classroom. Whether it’s forming friendships with other students or being excited to continue their education, students all say they are encouraged to fearlessly pursue their dreams.

“I ran into the Maori support person for The Mind Lab and she has been my greatest strength since. She has been a friend, a teacher and a confidante. She’s like whānau to me, ”Bartlett says.

For Valintine, seeing students overcome obstacles – whether financial, social, or in their studies – and continuing to show up for their studies has been one of the most rewarding aspects of her job.

“The most powerful thing you can do for your whānau or your community is to learn, for you bring everyone with you. “



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