Good Practices

AUT Edge Award opens new worlds to students

Written by Nicola Buisman and Serena Tiaiti

A co-curricular initiative to help students become work ready through volunteering and leadership activities is proving highly successful at AUT for both students and their communities.

Over the five years since it began, AUT Edge Award students have completed a total of 43,620 hours of volunteering and 27,147 hours of leadership. These experiences develop the transferable skills of students, helping them grow immensely in confidence, self-awareness, relationship building and networking.

AUT Edge Award graduate Jackie Chan, who won the 2019 Overall Graduate prize, says she learned to believe in herself and follow through on those beliefs through doing the award.

For the award leadership component Jackie founded BizTech Labs, a not-for-profit enterprise encouraging high school students, particularly girls, to pursue STEM subjects and enter the IT space. This involved spending hours mentoring and organising weekend events. Jackie also organised an Auckland wide hackathon for over 160+ Year 7 to 10 students that focused on finding creative software solutions for social issues.

“The award showed me the importance of doing what I was afraid to do. I really developed my ability in public speaking and learning how to approach employers.”

Volunteering within a charity opened Skyler Watt’s eyes to how even small interactions can make an impact and bring change. Winner of the AUT Edge Award Volunteering Prize in semester one this year, Skyler did 174 hours volunteering – many hours more than the compulsory 50 hours required for the award. The main focus of Skyler’s volunteering was OUTLine, a national service helping LGBTIQ+ New Zealanders access support and information and find a sense of community.

“Overall, participating in the Edge Award has been a positive and valuable experience. It allowed me to engage in meaningful work and pushed me to do things that I would not have been doing normally while studying.”

The AUT Edge Award is open to all AUT students, explains Awards Specialist Nicola Buisman. “Students can participate in a variety of ways, such as involvement in clubs, volunteering for charities or conservation activities. Encouraging students to be active either on campus or in their communities increases their employability skills and helps them feel connected. Completing all these activities and getting the award formally acknowledges students’ involvement outside of study.”

Student Employability & Careers Manager Serena Tiaiti, who helps deliver the initiative, says the award can also help open up opportunities that might help their future careers.

“We encourage students to volunteer for organisations that support their studies so they can start developing networks and connections.”

Serena and Nicola both agree the main thing students gain from the programme is confidence in themselves.

“They realise how much they can do and how much they can actually achieve and how much their time is worth,” says Nicola.

Students can start the AUT Edge Award at any time but must complete it the same time they complete their degree. Since it was established five years ago, 377 students have graduated with the AUT Edge Award, which is then included on their academic transcript. Prizes for outstanding effort in volunteering, leadership and personal growth are sponsored by industry partners, such as MYOB, EY, SEEK Volunteer and CAANZ. it is not an award for the fainthearted, but the rewards are huge.

Tips for students to help them become work ready

· Develop skills by being part of something and get involved whether it be a club, church, fundraiser or community support.

· Try something new that pushes past your comfort zone. You can’t grow from not doing anything about it.

· Volunteer to show your contribution to your community or a good cause, it speaks volumes to employer about who you are.