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Edwin Whanau came to Ara intending to get a qualification to formalise his welding experience. Instead, he enrolled in a business diploma.

“After discussing my situation and background with staff at the Woolston trades campus, they suggested I consider studying business,” he says.

Edwin explains that he was an acting manager for a year before deciding to return to study. It was hearing about this experience that prompted Ara staff to raise the idea of a business programme instead of a trades course.

“I liked the idea of getting skills that would allow me to offer business advice, especially to Māori. So I enrolled in the New Zealand Diploma in Business.”

Despite his best efforts, Edwin struggled with some aspects of his study. “The first semester was a bit scary,” he says. “I had doubts, a lack of belief and I’d get angry when I didn’t understand something. I didn’t want to fail or look stupid so I let old-school pride get in the way. It took me two exams before I sought help.”

Once he reached out for assistance, he discovered there was plenty available at Learning Services. “Without Learning Services I doubt I would’ve stayed,” Edwin admits. “The staff have been so helpful to me and have been there to listen, advise and help. They’ve gone further than required with the little things that people don’t see, like understanding how Māori men think and act at times. They were there when I just needed to chat about how I was feeling, or to give me a confidence boost. I really think that if it wasn’t for them I most likely wouldn’t be here anymore.”

With Learning Services’ help, Edwin is progressing well with his studies. He advises any student – but especially those who, like him, have been out of education for a while – to talk to Learning Services sooner rather than later. “Take the time at the start to have a quick chat with them. Find out what level of help you require and what they can do for you, then set up a study plan. The work they do and the support they provide is absolutely awesome.”