Skills Active highlights Stratford Swim School’s support for apprentices

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Aimee Woodhead, owner of Flyers Swim School in Stratford, New Zealand, is committed to helping her community thrive and, as such, helps her staff sign up for swim education internships with Skills Active.

Woodhead was a competitive swimmer and started teaching at just 15 years old. Since then she has worked in swimming schools for 25 years and has been running Flyers for 18 years.

Like many swimming educators, Woodhead says she was motivated to give something back to the sporting code that had given her so much.

“Swimming is an incredible sport. It’s a life skill, and it’s a super fun activity to do in rivers, beaches, lakes, and pools. A swimming pool is also a community hub, where everyone comes together with their whanau (extended family). Together with our tamariki (children) it strengthens their skills, and team swimming is a great learning platform for many life values ​​for our young people.

Woodhead points out that for her, the big rewards come from knowing that she has a direct impact on her corner of the world, reinforcing the right values ​​for the swimmers under her care.

She says Flyers sees itself as a social enterprise, with a strong focus on the Stratford community where it is based. In addition to competitive swimming and classes for everyone from babies to adults, it also offers subsidized swimming instruction for the community through the Ako Wai program.

Flyers has 11 staff currently enrolled in the New Zealand Learn to Swim Program: Specialized Swimming Teacher (Level 4). Lots of people get involved in helping apprentices succeed, says Woodhead.

Skills Angie Gooch, Active Learning Support Advisor, meets with interns and makes sure they’re on the right track. Karen Dalldorf of Swimming New Zealand leads the external education courses that apprentices are required to take. Cécile Elliot, also from Swimming NZ, assesses their work and determines when they have reached the required standards.

And Woodhead takes the lion’s share of supporting and mentoring his staff as they go through the long and sometimes difficult process of completing their apprenticeship.

This involves setting a schedule and making sure people understand what is expected of them, and coordinating to ensure that they can access the appropriate courses in their area. Then they are allotted time to attend and time in the pool so that they can get the experience they need. Woodhead has also created online forms to make it easier for her apprentices to complete their written assignments, and she runs group sessions where they work together on their qualifications.

Woodhead advises “on an individual level there is a lot of paperwork, all of which has to get to the right place at the right time. So I will make sure everything has been put back, and when they miss things, find them. “

Woodhead says she really enjoys this aspect of her job because for her the instructors are the heart of the organization. She notes that many of them are part-time, with busy lives outside of swimming.

She is grateful for the government Apprenticeship Boost grant some of the instructors were able to apply for; this means that Flyers are able to pay their apprentices for the extra time they spend on their qualifications.

Woodhead adds, “It’s a big commitment to do an apprenticeship and I wouldn’t expect people to do this workload without being paid for their time. I would never want my staff to feel like they’re floundering or not taking advantage [the apprenticeship programme].

“I always want them to feel like they’re learning and getting something out of it. Especially because teaching takes so much energy when you’re in the pool with the kids!

“It has to be recognized as really important work, and learning is one way to do it. “

Image: Flyers swimming teachers Hine Beard and Bailee Millar in front of a booth at the Stratford High School Careers Expo.

(Information obtained before the August 2021 lockdown.)

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