Tailored to meet student needs, EIT’s newly-located Hastings Regional Learning Centre has become a drawcard for learners since opening ahead of the academic year’s second term.
Light-filled, spacious and welcoming, the new centre exudes inclusiveness, which is encouraging students of all ages and backgrounds to engage in tertiary education.
The relocation to a single-storey building on Heretaunga Street West has also been well-received by surrounding businesses who appreciate the extra foot traffic generated at their end of the downtown shopping strip.
EIT has had a long-time presence in Hastings, initially establishing in 1982 in leased rooms on the corner of Queen and Hastings streets.
More recently, it operated out of the Tower Building in Railway Road. However, as centre coordinator Tania Kupa points out, the first-floor centre put it at somewhat of a remove from pedestrian traffic. Access could also be challenging for less mobile students.
EIT was keen to secure a site that generated more foot traffic, provided better access, was close to public transport and boosted the institute’s public visibility.
The search for a suitable location focused on providing a centre that reflected EIT’s belief that a high quality tertiary education should be available to all.
The existing building was purchased last year and an extensive renovation and refit followed, providing a flexible, largely open- plan layout which is allowing for more collaborative learning and an expanded list of programmes.
Fronting the street is the marketing area, furnished with desks, sofas and iPads so students can, for example, access StudyLink information. A step up to the side of this information hub are interview rooms and administration offices.
Opening off the generous central thoroughfare are several computing classrooms. In these collaborative learning spaces, students can move computers around on wheeled tables to work in groups.
There are also two discrete classrooms, both soundproofed for teaching purposes – one seating 25, which is the maximum number for a programme, and another accommodating 15 students.
Any EIT student, whether enrolled in a programme offered at Hastings or at any other centre or campus, can use the open-plan computer space, which is equipped with 12 computers and a printer.
The all-purpose meeting room was recently used by third-year nursing students to study for their exams.
As at the former centre, retail, computing and business are core programmes that have proven their worth in preparing students moving into the Hawke’s Bay workforce. Horticulture is also a The staple, with students learning hands-on skills at community gardens in the Hastings district.
New to the centre are food and beverage (hospitality), Mãori studies and skincare and makeup.
The three core staff who relocated to the new centre are steeped in EIT’s learning culture and have well-honed people skills.
Tania, for example, has had a lengthy involvement with tertiary education. Walking the talk, she started at EIT as a Bachelor of Computing Systems student in 2001.
She then tutored for EIT as a final-year degree student in 2003, and has since completed a Diploma in Business, the Bachelor of Business Studies and a Postgraduate Diploma in Business.
Last year, she and Lisa Turnbull, the centre’s programme coordinator and tutor for retail programmes, studied the Level 2 Certificate in Te Reo Mãori and this year Tania completed the centre’s 12-week short course in Mandarin.
“I’m a lifelong learner,” Tania says. “I just can’t stop.”
Lisa also is a highly-qualified tutor. Originally with Tairãwhiti Polytechnic based in Onekawa, she has continued in her teaching role since the merger with EIT seven years ago – a total of 16 years.
Tony Martin, the learning facilitator for computing, was one of the first students to work for the EIT community computing programme when it ran in three classrooms in the Hetley Building on the Hawke’s Bay campus.
These permanent staffers are joined by other tutors teaching short courses and a growing list of qualification programmes.
Located at the rear of the building, where a service lane allows for deliveries, the well-equipped training kitchen and customer service area have allowed EIT to add hospitality to its Hastings offerings.
A well-patronised pop-up café runs at the end of food and beverage courses, honing students’ skills in dealing with the public and handling eftpos and cash transactions.
fare is prepared by the students and a sample menu might include pumpkin soup, sausage rolls, butter chicken, beef panini, pork bao buns, quiche lorraine, quinoa salad, savoury scrolls, cream-filled buns and carrot cake.
Pricing is great, with nothing over $6 and espresso coffees costing just $2.
Taught by café service tutor Fliss Pullman and chef tutor Courtney Sanders, the hospitality students learn about food safety and first aid as well as cooking and barista practices.
Hands-on practical experience is also embedded in other programmes. Retail students, for example, are offered placements in stores.
Other offerings that are new for the centre include theory for 25 Level 3 carpentry students, who will proceed to building a cottage on a Maraekakaho site, make-up and skincare, employment preparation and horticulture – fruit production.
“A lot of other organisations are utilising the centre,” says Tania, “and we are able to make rooms available for teaching purpose.”
The centre operates five days a week and is open late on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. The evening hours are attracting students beyond Hastings in suiting those who work regular hours.
EIT sees the centre as a gateway for students who may want to progress to higher-level programmes.
“Would-be students can drop in completed enrolment forms,” Tania says, “and we can check them before sending them on.”
Chief executive Chris Collins says the new centre underscores EIT’s ongoing commitment to serving the needs of communities throughout Hawke’s Bay.
He points out that while Hawke’s Bay’s main campus is in Taradale, EIT’s reach extends well beyond that, into towns and rural settlements throughout the region. Nearly 1800 students study programmes off- site from main campuses, right across Hawke’s Bay and Tairãwhiti, Gisborne region.